April 9, 2018

Transient Orca Family Hunts Near Saltspring Island (T49A's)

[Sunday – 4/8/18 – 12:00 – M/V Sea Lion – Naturalist Erick]


            This Sunday was another cloudy and misty day here in the Pacific Northwest. Captain Brian, Rachael, and I headed out with a group of excited passengers. We headed north to go in search of whales and other exciting wildlife as well as avoid some of the spring winds that were blowing out of the south. We made it all the way up to Swanson Channel. Just around Moat Point we started to see some blows in the distance. As we got closer we saw that this was a group of Transient (Bigg’s) Orcas (These are the ones that prey on marine mammals)! They were hunting near the southern shore of Saltspring Island. It was a pretty large family group and Rachael identified them as the T49A’s! This is a family of six orcas that we often see here in these waters. They were hunting seals in the channel and it was amazing to see them work together to hunt and eat a Harbor Seal. Transient Orcas are unusual among marine mammals because they usually drown their prey instead of injuring it. After they were done eating the older brother and sister T49A1 and T49A2 started socializing while the matriarch, T49A, and the rest of her children were logging nearby. This looked like perhaps T49A was nursing her youngest offspring T49A5 who is still very young (and cute). After they were done logging they all grouped back together and started heading west again. This is where we had to leave them. We turned and headed back south into the San Juan Islands. We wound our way through the tiny islands and at the Cactus Islands we saw a lot of Harbor Seals being lazy on the low-lying rocks. We left those rock sausages to go find some more at Green Point. Here we saw the most Steller Sea Lions that I have ever seen in one place. A few growled at us and there was even more sea lions rafting together in the strong eddies on the south side of the point. They all dove in unison and it made them look like one giant brown sea monster. As we left them we also saw around 6 Bald Eagles soaring overhead watching all the commotion. Whale Folks, that’s all for today.


Until next time,

Naturalist Erick

San Juan Safaris