Victoria Whale Watching Report: Killer Whales, Humpback Whales & More
September 2, 2019
This morning we headed out West into the Juan De Fuca Strait.
After a bit of travelling, we encountered a family of Bigg’s (Transient) Killer Whales! This type of killer whale eats mammals such as seals, sea lions, porpoises, and even other whales. This particular family is quite well known in our area, because they have been documented hunting other whales such as Grey Whales and Minke Whales. This is a group of four individuals, the oldest of whom was born in 1955. She is known as T018 and the relationship between her and the other female, T019, who she travels with is unknown. T019 was born in 1965 and has two sons, T019B and T019C. They were born in 1995 and 2001 respectively. We are able to identify families and individuals by their dorsal fins and saddle patches. The two males in this family are very distinguishable because of their size and unique dorsal fins. We watched this family for a while and then decided to carry on to see what else we could find!
We turned around and slightly ahead of us were FOUR more families of Bigg’s Killer Whales! This would have been a total of more than 15 individuals travelling together. Usually when we see these animals, they are travelling in family groups of 2-6 members. This was particularly special to see.
We decided to pass through Race Rocks ecological reserve before these animals entered the area. If the killer whales come into Race Rocks no boats are allowed in. Here is where we find out Pinniped species. We were able to see, smell, and hear Steller’s and California Sea Lions hauled out on the rocks. There were also several Harbour Seals. We got quite the surprise when a Humpback Whale surfaced beside one of the rocks! At this point, some of the killer whales had made their way over, so we were required to leave the reserve. Humpback Whales are migratory and use our waters as their feeding grounds. They will be here from Spring until Fall and then they will travel South to their breeding grounds for the Winter.
At this point, it was unfortunately time to make our way back to Victoria after a beautiful morning at sea.
This afternoon we headed West out into the Juan De Fuca Strait.
It didn’t take long before we encountered a large family of Bigg’s (Transient) Killer Whales! This type of killer whale eats mammals such as seals, sea lions, porpoises, and even other whales. This family is known as the T109As and consists of 8 individuals. We are able to tell individuals apart because their dorsal fins and saddle patches are all unique. T109A herself was born in 1990 and has five offspring. Her first calf is T109A2 and she was born in 2005. She also has two calves of her own, born in 2016 and 2018. The rest of T109As offspring’s genders are unknown and were born in 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2018. They were being more playful than I have ever seen! We saw them tail slapping over and over again, spy hopping, swimming on their backs, and even breaching! This was such a magnificent thing to witness, so we spend quite a bit of time just watching them play and have fun.
We then made our way to Race Rocks ecological reserve. Here is where we find our Pinniped species. We saw many Steller’s Sea Lions, California Sea Lions, and Harbour Seals hauled out on the rocks. They were being very vocal and we could loudly hear the growls of the Steller’s Sea Lions and the barks of the California Sea Lions. The Steller’s Sea Lions are larger and more pale brown than the California Sea Lions.
After seeing all those fun animals, we made our way back to the killer whales we were with earlier. When we got there, we realized another family had joined them! We could tell immediately because we saw a very tall adult male dorsal fin. This second group was the T100 family. There are four individuals, with T100 born in 1979 and her son born in 2002. She also has a daughter born in 2009 and another of unknown gender born in 2014. They were being just as active as when we were with them earlier and we got to witness some really amazing behaviours.
It was then unfortunately time to make our way back to Victoria after an absolutely spectacular afternoon!