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August 7, 2016 – Transient Orcas

August 7, 2016

It was another beautiful summer day in the straits surrounding picturesque Victoria, BC’s capital city. New reports came in this afternoon that there were transient (mammal-hunting) killer whales out west, making their way towards us! With news of orcas within reach, we sped off towards the Sheringham Lighthouse, west of Sooke. Though it was a long ride, the end result was worth it! Big, tall dorsal fins, painted black were popping up from the dark waters! Transient orcas roam the Pacific of North America, traveling in matrilines and hunting local marine mammals. In our area they tend to favour harbor seals, porpoises and even sea lions.

We spent the afternoon watching as these killer whales stalked the shorelines and made good time moving east. Later in the week we learned that these transients were part of a group of orcas, believed to number 15-17 animals, who attacked a humpback calf off Jordan River (west of the location we saw them)! Transient orcas are predators of humpbacks, but it is an extremely rare occurrence in our waters. However, with a large number of orcas, the opportunity must have been too good to pass up. Witnesses say that the orcas tried to attack a calf, but other humpbacks showed up on scene and helped the mother fend off the orcas! This was a true experience of the realities of nature! In the end, the orcas were left to go look for seals and sea lions instead. Although orcas are fierce predators, the size and weight of humpbacks are something to be feared.

We topped the tour off by stopping in at the black and white towered, Race Rocks Lighthouse! Home to all kinds of marine mammals, this ecological reserve is a must see if we are out in the western waters of the Juan de Fuca Straight. Here we found California and Steller Sea Lions, which are all males and returning from the mating season, soon 500-600 sea lions will blanket these islets! We are looking forward to seeing the whole gang, but the smell that comes with them- not so much! We also captured some great pictures of the lonely sea otter, who appears to be quite enjoying his solitude. Harbour seals are always laying out on the rocks, safe from the jaws of the oncoming transient orcas! It was a spectacular afternoon indeed!

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