Lauren Fritz, 6/5/17, M/V Sea Lion, 12 pm & 5:30 pm tour
I absolutely love Transient killer whales. But how are they different from our Residents, and what sort of behavior is characteristic for this ecotype? Well, for starters, a good dinner starts with harbor porpoises and seals if you’re a Transient. They’re not at all interested in the Chinook salmon that makes up the majority of the diets of the Southern Residents. They’re also extremely stealthy hunters – each family pod has their own tricks and techniques up their sleeves when they’re out and about hunting. It’s not easy being an orca, resident or transient. You somehow have to come up with 200-400 pounds of food a day to satisfy your rumbling stomach (or four! Did you know orcas have four stomachs?). Depending on the day, this could seem like a simple feat or be ridiculously complicated. There are no predictable, easy-to-navigate grocery stores for killer whales – for them, it takes diligence and motivation to scour the boulders and rocks for seals and cruise through the sea checking the area for porpoises.
Today, we were lucky enough to see the T65A’s out hunting on both of our whale watches. These must have been some hungry whales! This particular family consists of the matriarch, T65A, (who was born back in 1986) and her four offspring. T65A2 is a big male who is often seen assuming the role of second-in-command, assisting his mother with hunting while the three younger offspring stay further offshore, practicing and observing for the future when they will, too, become capable hunters. The coolest part about today? We didn’t only witness hunting behavior. We saw breaching and pec-slapping and tail-slapping and several overall displays of orca happiness. It was an incredible afternoon and evening out on the water.
Whale Watch Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris