September 11, 2020

Bigg's Killer Whale Family Scares Steller's Sea Lions

Bigg's Killer Whales Swim North of Sucia Island

Olivia | M/V Sea Lion | September 11th, 2020 | 13:00

This smokey, yellow day started off a bit eerie in the San Juans due to the wildfires in Oregon, Washington, and California. We did not let this stop us from heading out in the water in search of wildlife that could be milling around. Shortly after leaving the dock, we saw a Steller’s Sea Lion swimming in San Juan Channel, coming up for big breaths in the golden haze. To start off our path, we decided to head north where there was greater visibility from the smoke and look around the outer islands. This turned out to be a great decision, because as we were heading through Presidents Channel, we received a report of Bigg’s Killer Whales north of Sucia Island.

Upon arrival, the first thing we noticed were heaps of Steller’s Sea Lions all hauled out on a shallow reef north of the island, in an attempt to hide from their predators lurking not far away. We noticed Stanley first, the large male identified as T123A. He was born in 2000 and traveling with his mother, Sidney, and two younger siblings, Lucky and Darcy. We hung out and watched as they traveled south east between Sucia and Matia Islands aiming towards north Orcas Island. It is remarkable seeing any Transient Orca in these waters, but this family remains one of my favorites with their range in ages and genders- it’s a good mix to compare the life history and size of these whales and allows an image in front of us as we discuss their learning behavior throughout the years.

Heading back south, we saw Harbor Seals hauled out on shorelines and lots of Harbor Porpoise swimming in every direction we went. Was a pleasant day out on the water escaping the craziness of 2020 and enjoying the raw nature the Salish Sea homes.