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

Whales hunting porpoises off Vancouver Island thrill tourists

Pod spotted hunting porpoises near Pender Island caught on video

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

Intersection getting safety upgrade

Be prepared for traffic changes in Penticton’s industrial area

Summerland housing issues raised at candidate forum

High housing costs, low vacancy rates and lack of affordable housing addressed

Don’t be dazed and confused about cannabis legalization

Sitting down with an Okanagan lawyer to clear the haze of marijuana rules

Hero campaign raises $24,000 for Okanagan non-profits

Lowe’s Canada Heroes campaign was held throughout September

10 things still illegal in the new age of recreational cannabis

Pot is legal – but there are still a lot of rules, and breaking some could leave you in jail

Your morning news in 90: Oct. 17, 2018

Tune in for 90 seconds to get the top headlines for the Okanagan, Shuswap and Similkameen.

VOTE: Nature in Focus reader’s choice photo contest

The Penticton Western News Reader’s Choice photo contest

Who’s running in Penticton’s election?

Candidates for the Penticton municipal and school board election

Shuswap pot shops close as cannabis becomes legal

One marijuana dispensary won’t require city approvals as on First Nations land

B.C. Lions look to cement CFL playoff spot with victory over Eskimos

B.C. can cement a post-season berth in the wild West Division on Friday night with a home win over the Edmonton Eskimos

Canada ban on asbestos takes effect but mining residues are exempt

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna plans to announce the new regulations implementing the ban on Thursday in Ottawa

Okanagan College dives into cannabis courses

The college has adapted its programs in Kelowna

Harry and Meghan bring rain to drought-stricken Outback town

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day two of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

Demand for legalized cannabis in early hours draws lineups, heavy web traffic

Government-run and privately operated sales portals went live at 12:01 a.m. local time across Canada, eliciting a wave of demand.

Most Read