Despite the “killer” name, it is an unusual sight to see a killer whale take down a large mammal.
But orcas are the apex predator of the marine ecosystem, and this new video taken off the coast of Smith Island, Washington, offers a rare glimpse into the whales’ hunting patterns.
Nine Bigg’s whales from two families were travelling together when they were spotted surrounding and killing a full-grown minke whale 40 kilometres away from Victoria, B.C. The video, captured by a tour boat from Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching, shows the grey minke with a smaller dorsal fin trying to escape the pod as the orcas surround and overwhelm it.
“Within minutes of us getting on scene with them, everything kind of broke open,” Jeff Friedman, a captain for Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching, told CHEK News. “They were on some kind of a hunt.”
Incredible photos posted by the Pacific Whale Watch Association show the minke’s eventual take-down over about half an hour. The images may be difficult for some to see.
“Predation events can often stir up mixed emotions, especially when the prey is a whale we’ve come to know over years of whale watching in the Salish Sea,” the Pacific Whale Watch Association said in a Facebook post, referring to the known minke who was likely fifty years old.
“Everyone on board, all the guests and us as well…everybody had mixed feelings about what we were seeing,” said Friedman. “Certainly the amazement of watching wild killer whales hunting,” he said. “But you’re also…kind of rooting for the minke whale. And it’s a little bit difficult to watch.”