California

Drone video shows orcas on unprecedented killing spree in Monterey Bay

Orcas stun whale watchers with close-up views

Orcas are on an unprecedented killing spree in Monterey Bay, attacking and feeding on gray whale calves, says marine biologist Nancy Black with Monterey Bay Whale Watch.
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Orcas are on an unprecedented killing spree in Monterey Bay, attacking and feeding on gray whale calves, says marine biologist Nancy Black with Monterey Bay Whale Watch.

Killer whales are on an unprecedented killing spree in California’s Monterey Bay, attacking and feeding on gray whale calves, a marine biologist said.

Since April 20, orcas have killed four gray whale calves, said Nancy Black, who co-owns Monterey Bay Whale Watch. She said a family of nine killer whales has taken part in all of the attacks, but the first killing involved 33 orcas.

Drone footage taken recently shows killer whales feeding on a baby gray whale, then two humpback whales charging the group and trying to intervene. Gray whales are most susceptible to attacks from killer whales during their migration from Mexico up the California coast and to Alaska, KSBW reported.

“The chance to see something like this, a top predator, is pretty exciting,” Greg McCormack, a marine biologist at Monterey Bay Whale Watch, told KSBW.

Black called their frequency unprecedented.

“Usually the killer whales come in and out. They aren’t here every single day,” she told the Monterey Herald (http://bit.ly/2qiKlOH). “We see them more often in April than May by far, but they just seem to be hanging around and waiting for more gray whales to come through.”

The gray whale calves and mothers’ arrival off Central and Northern California was a few weeks later than usual this year, so a lot of hungry killer whales were waiting, Black said. Adults in the orca family pod also might be teaching the youngsters how to hunt.

“They (killer whales) learn different methods of hunting from different areas so it’s passed on through the generations,” she said. “And this particular group ... is very good at it.”

Black noted the orcas in the latest attacks also killed with unusual speed. A Wednesday attack took just 20 minutes, compared with the several hours it usually takes a pod of orcas to separate a calf from its mother and drown it.

Mid-April to early June is best time to see the whales off the California coast.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

A drone captured this scene of a pod of orcas feeding on a sevengill shark on Dec. 13, 2016, off the coast of Monterey. The drone footage, by Slater Moore of Monterey Bay Whale Watch, shows about 25 whales and two babies.

A pod of killer whales was spotted on Thursday, May 8, 2014, off the coast of Morro Bay, where the orcas attacked and killed a juvenile gray whale.

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