May 14th - WARNING: Graphic Photo - Orca Hunting a Sea Lion in Howe Sound!
Our whale watching adventure on Monday turned out as exciting as it gets! We were treated to a thrilling sea lion hunt, bald eagles swooping and diving, sunny skies, calm seas, and a wonderful group of guests to share it all with.
Our day began at Entrance island, which is a year-round haulout for hundreds of Steller sea lions. We watched as some fought each other for the best spots on the rocks, while others chose to relax in the warm sunshine.
When we arrived in Howe sound where the whales had been found, the first thing we saw were bald eagles soaring nearby. They're opportunistic birds, and they'll eat anything from fish, to baby seals, to small dogs and cats (really!), and in this case, scraps left behind from orcas!
Next, the orcas! A big male 18 year old transient orca known as T123A or "Stanley" rose to the surface and slapped his tail down several times, and then raced toward his prey, a Steller sea lion. The rest of his family (mom and younger sibling) followed. Orcas share meals, and hunting is almost always a team effort!
Then, the whales began powerfully throwing their tails out of the water, a behaviour known as "cartwheeling". It's not uncommon for orcas to get excited after a successful hunt, and we're glad we were able to witness this incredible display of power!
Next, our guests noticed something pink floating at the surface a few hundred yards away. We headed over to see what the whales had left behind: The Steller sea lion's intestines!
Witnessing an orca eat a sea lion can be a jarring experience! But we always remember that as top predators capable of travelling great distances, orcas need these large meals to sustain their lives. Fortunately Steller sea lion populations in BC are growing, so although one individual was lost to an orca, as a whole species Stellers are on the rise!
Right before we turned to leave, "Stanley" treated us to a series of "pec slaps". It's unknown why orcas do this. Some scientists think it helps the whales slough off dead skin, while other evidence suggests it could be to attract the attention of the rest of their pod. For now, it's still a mystery!
Big thanks to everyone who joined us on this exciting adventure! If you'd like to join one of our whale watching trips, give us a call at 250-667-5177 or book online at www.vancouverislandwhalewatch.com.