April 9, 2019

Orcas Hunt in Haro: Bigg's Killer Whales T100B's and T11A Travel Together

2 male Bigg's Orcas

Erick | Tuesday, April 9, 2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00 


It was raining in the morning here, but by the time we were taking our lovely passengers out to go find some exciting wildlife the sun had come out on another glorious spring day. Captain Brian, Alexandria, and myself took this group aboard M/V Sea Lion north through San Juan Channel. We made our first stop at Green Point on Spieden Island to view the smorgasbord of pinnipeds hauled out there. On the sunbaked rocky shore there was at least 30 Steller Sea Lions. They were a mixed bunch – some were lounging some were growling but all were having a good day. Among the stellers there were also California Sea Lions. California Sea Lions are usually around 600 – 800 lbs. and are big animals but they are easily dwarfed by the 10 ft long 1-ton male Steller Sea Lions. It was just pure magic to shut down the engine and float by them in the current off Green Point. Once we floated along the shore we continued west through New Channel. We cruised in between the Cactus Islands slowly and stared back at the huge spread of Harbor Seals that were lounging on the rocks that had been recently exposed by the low tide. Above these seals we could also spy a Bald Eagle sitting next to its huge next sitting atop a tall Douglas Fir tree. We continued on our way into Haro Strait and made our way to Kelp Reef.  Here we spotted a group of Orcas! It was a smaller group of 3 Bigg’s (formerly known as Transients) Orcas. To back up a little there are many types (ecotypes) of orcas in the world kind of like tigers. Each type only interacts and mates within its own ecotype. The two types that we often see here are Bigg’s and Southern Residents. The major difference between the two types here is that the Southern Residents (J, K, L pod) feed on fish, predominantly Chinook Salmon, and the Bigg’s (Transient) Orcas prey on marine mammals, predominantly Harbor Seals. This was a group of three zigging and zagging north up the strait most likely searching for food. This group was made up of the T100B’s which is a mother with her nine-year old offspring. Along with them there was an older adult male, T11A. He was born in 1978, and although he is usually traveling with his mother, he may be traveling as a lone male now. We watched them for a while wind their way up the Strait and we got a really great view as they crossed over closer to Stewart Island. What a day, after watching those magnificent animals we headed back home to Friday Harbor. Whale folks that’s all for now.