Sightings Report - August 7th 2019
We watched these apex predators circle the rocks in search of harbour seals around the Shaw Island in the US Gulf Islands. This family of four consists of T18, T19, and T19's two sons, T19B and T19C.
The orcas are at a disadvantage when the seals are hauled out on the rocks. If they were to try lunging and grabbing one, the sharp surface scraping against their skin could injure them.
Although harbour seals rest out of the water, they struggle to maneuver their chunky bodies on land. When they sense danger, their immediate instinct is to escape into the water where they are fastest. The orcas know this and use it to their advantage. They will swim right beside the rocks, making their presence known to initiate fear into the seals. This tactic differs greatly from their usual quiet, sneaky approach. If one seal falls victim to their panic, they will attempt an escape by going into the water, where the orcas can hunt them with more ease.
While we were on scene, a hunt took place underwater. We only knew one occurred when T19B swam by a boat with a chunk of flesh in his mouth.
Witnessing such calculated thinking and teamwork from these whales really reminds you how intelligent they are!