A whale watching group got a special treat when they witnessed a family of orcas with a young calf hunting and playing in the Salish Sea.
Western Prince Whale Watching came across the family of four Bigg’s killer whales, also known as transient killer whales, in the Haro Strait Tuesday. Naturalist Traci Walter was with the group and said the orca family is known as the T123s. The youngest orca, T123D, is under a year old.
Walter said they watched the family hunt and T123D “got to expend some built up energy and practice belly flops.” Video of the the encounter shows T123D breaching more than a dozen times.
Unlike the endangered Southern Resident orcas which feed on Chinook salmon, transient killer whales hunt and eat other mammals like harbor seals, porpoises, and Steller sea lions.
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Transient killer whales are thriving in the Salish Sea. Walter said with up to 300 individuals in the area, they have seen transient orcas almost every day since the beginning of March.
“It’s been fascinating to see a boom of Bigg’s killer whale calves being born and surviving. This highlights how critical the issue of food is in survival rates,” she said.