Members of the Pacific Whale Watch Affiliation (PWWA) caught a uncommon view of aggressive exercise between two giants of the ocean on Thursday, when a big group of transient Bigg’s orcas squared off with a pair of humpback whales over the course of some hours.
Capt. Joe Zelwietro of Eagle Wing Excursions noticed a bunch of about 15 killer whales being “unusually energetic” within the Juan de Fuca Strait, a stretch of the Salish Sea between Vancouver Island and Washington state, shortly after 11 a.m. PT, the PWWA stated.
A couple of minutes later, Capt. Jimmy Zakreski of B.C. Whale Excursions observed there have been two humpback whales in the course of the group of orcas, the affiliation stated.
“Round these components, it is quite common for us to come across orcas. It is also quite common for us to come across humpbacks,” stated PWWA government director Erin Gless in an interview.
“It’s not quite common for us to come across them in the course of a brawl.”
Throughout the three-hour encounter, which occurred round 40 kilometres west of Victoria, observers say the mammals breached, slapped the water with their tails and made loud vocalizations earlier than they lastly disappeared into the fog.
“I am nonetheless making an attempt to wrap my head round it as a result of it was completely unbelievable,” stated Mollie Naccarato, a captain and naturalist with Sooke Coastal Explorations on south Vancouver Island.
“At first the orcas gave the impression to be chasing the humpbacks, however then when there was area between them, the humpbacks would return towards the orcas.”
Gless says the orcas had been seen circling the 2 humpbacks and infrequently nipped at their flippers and tails.
Territorial or predatory?
Bigg’s orcas feed on marine mammals akin to seals, sea lions, and porpoises, however do sometimes hunt bigger prey, she stated. That is in distinction to the northern and southern resident orca teams, which feed totally on fish.
“Orcas are the one pure predator that humpback whales have on this area,” Gless stated. “Although humpback whales can get to be the scale of a faculty bus, a bunch of very skilled hunters can assault [them].”
Gless says there was some debate amongst whale watchers who witnessed Thursday’s interplay as as to whether the behaviour was territorial or predatory.
Some imagine the killer whales had been performing surprisingly as a result of they had been irritated concerning the humpbacks being on their turf, whereas others thought the group of orcas confirmed a number of of the typical emblems of a bunch looking method.
“We noticed a few of that splashing round … getting on high of the again of the humpbacks as they had been making an attempt to breathe,” she stated.
The humpback whales concerned had been recognized as BCX1948, often called Reaper, and BCY1000, often called Hydra.
Reaper is not less than 4 years outdated and has been matched to winter breeding grounds off Jalisco, Mexico; Hydra, an grownup feminine, has been matched to breeding grounds in Maui, Hawaii, the place she’s given start to not less than three calves.
Gless says no person noticed how the battle was resolved as a result of it was notably foggy when either side swam off. Just a few teams will likely be again out on the water Friday, making an attempt to identify the 2 humpbacks to see in the event that they made it out alive.
Gless says the orcas’ behaviour wasn’t fully out of the bizarre but it surely’s an encounter whale watchers have hardly ever witnessed, particularly not up shut.
“We actually acquired to see one thing spectacular,” she stated.
But it surely may turn out to be extra widespread because the populations of each species proceed to develop, she added.