Orcas that are “rarely seen” were caught on camera hunting sea lions off the California coast this week, the Monterey Bay Whale Watch said on Wednesday.
The “absolutely fantastic whale watching day” included seeing eight orcas hunting multiple sea lions on Tuesday, the whale watch said in a post on Facebook. The California Killer Whale Project, which tags and identifies killer whales in the area, identified some of the whales, and identified them as individual whales that do not make frequent appearances. One of the whales was a calf traveling with its mother, the Monterey Bay Whale Watch said.
The group said that they witnessed the whales leaping out of the water, breaching the surface and slapping their tails as they hunted the sea lions before traveling “very fast to the northwest.”
A video that the Monterey Bay Whale Watch said was taken by a drone shows the orcas preying on the sea lion. The video may be disturbing, the whale watch said, but shows “a very important part of nature and the ecosystem.” It’s also rare to document such events, the whale watch said.
Beyond the orcas and sea lions, the whale watch also recorded seeing 50 Risso’s dolphins, a type of blunt-headed dolphin common along the California coast. Orcas do hunt these dolphins, but the whale watch did not say they had been preyed on by the killer whales seen on Tuesday.
Nancy Black, the owner of the Monterey Bay Whale Watch, director of the California Killer Whale Project, and a marine biologist, previously told CBS Sacramento that orcas seen in California are more commonly found in the deep ocean canyon beneath Monterey Bay. Because the canyon is close to the beach, it’s possible to see the orcas from the shore in some cases, Black said at the time.
Monterey Bay is about 75 miles south of San Francisco.
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