A pod of transient killer whales were filmed hunting porpoises off of Pender Island last week. (File photo)

Whales hunting porpoises thrill tourists

Pod spotted hunting porpoises near Pender Island

Watching a pod of transient killer whales hunting porpoises close to Pender Island last week was a thrill for Simon Pidcock and his clients.

Pidcock, owner of Cowichan Bay’s Ocean Ecoventures Whale Watching, came across several of the large and intelligent meat-eating mammals while out on his tour boat.

The whales began breaching out of the water as they tried to corral and toss the much smaller porpoises in the air in their apparently successful efforts to stun and kill them before they could be eaten.

Pidcock said he began taking a video of the melee as the whales tossed, turned and breached as they knocked the porpoises out of the water, sometimes within just a couple of hundred metres from his tour boat.

“We were lucky enough to be there to witness it,” he said.

“We don’t see this happen every day when we’re out there with our customers, but we always hope each time.”

Pidcock has been taking people on whale-watching tours for 16 years in the area and said the number of the transient, also called Bigg’s, killer whales in the Straight of Georgia has increased considerably over that time.

Pods of fish-eating resident killer whales dominated the strait for decades and their meat-eating cousins were much less common in the region.

But the number of transients have been steadily increasing since the 1960s when the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada discontinued its bounty on harbour seals, one of the killer whale’s main prey species, in which it paid $5 per seal in an effort to minimize their effect on commercial fisheries.

RELATED STORY: ENTANGLED KILLER WHALE SAVED OFF B.C. COAST

There were fewer than 4,000 harbour seals in the strait when the bounty was discontinued, but their numbers have increased more than 10-fold since then, returning the harbour seal population to its historical levels and drawing in more transient killer whales to feed on them.

One day last week, four transient whales were spotted and filmed making an extremely rare visit to Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

“All the seals and sea lions now in the area are a real smorgasbord for the transient killer whales,” Pidcock said.

“Folks are coming from all over the world to see these encounters, but we’re not trying to encourage any false expectations. We can sometimes be on the water all day and not see any action at all.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

T-Birds make the leap into rugby provincials

Strong first half helps Cowichan beat Belmont Bulldogs

LAKE FLASHBACK: Water troubles and hopes for a full-time theatre take centre stage this week

Lake didn’t want meters, and Youbou didn’t want publicly owned water while Players wanted Brown House

75th Anniversary Run remembers Second World War tragedy on Mount Bolduc

Transport was provided by ATV through the members of Cowichan Valley ATV Club

Chris Wilkinson column: How does showing appreciation make you feel?

How much time and (more importantly) energy do you feel you have left to appreciate someone?

Duncan runner Taryn Smiley reaches NCAA track prelims

Missouri State athlete can qualify for national finals

600 new campsites coming to provincial parks and recreation sites across B.C.

Tourism Minister announced half of the new spots to 13 most popular provincial parks

Coming up in Cowichan: From bike rodeo to ‘A Word About Consent’, lots on the calendar

Christian Science event coming to Duncan Saturday, May 25 “Breaking News: Freedom… Continue reading

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses judicial review around ferry workers’ right to strike

B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union collective agreement expires November 2020

Municipalities protest after B.C. declares marijuana crops ‘farm use’

UBCM president seeks answers in letter to John Horgan government

CMHC defends mortgage stress test changes amid calls for loosening rules

Uninsured borrowers must now show they could service their mortgage if rates rose two per cent

B.C. woman left ‘black and blue’ after being pushed off 40-foot cliff at lake

West Shore RCMP looking for witnesses as investigation continues

Thunderstorms to bring heavy rain, risk of flash floods in the southern Interior

Ten to 30 millimetres of rain to fall over the early weekend

Unbe-leaf-able: Agassiz man finds more than 200 four-leaf clovers in a month

Walt Hardinge has found more than 219 four-or-more leaf clovers this spring alone

Crews fight fire with fire to keep blaze from northern Alberta town

The wildfire now covers some 920 square kilometres

Most Read