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

Trash to Treasure in RDKB on Saturday

Things to do in the Trail area for the week of Oct. 18 to Oct. 24

Technology allows vehicles to tackle twisty highways with ease

Mechanically Speaking by Trail Times columnist Ron Nutini

Trail arts series kicks off 71st season

The first show is Tuesday, and features a Kootenay-based trio of musicians

Mayoral races in Warfield, Trail and Beaver Valley highlight election day

General voting day is Saturday, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Vernon Vipers shut out Smokies

Williamson comes off IR with three points

Mellow opening to B.C.’s only legal pot shop

About five people lined up early for the opening of the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.

Nova Scotia works to stop underage online cannabis sales

The government cannabis retailer moves to prevent workaround of online-age verification

Carr, Morneau off to China next month to deepen commerce

Carr says Canada and China aren’t embarking on formal free trade talks

Edmonton girl guide sells out of cookies in front of cannabis store

On the first day cannabis was legal a young entrepreneur capitalized on cookie sales

Tougher laws introduced against bestiality, animal fighting

The Liberal government is proposing to strengthen the laws today

Openly gay, female priest of B.C. church defying norms

Andrea Brennan serves Fernie at pivotal time in church’s history

Money Monitor: Should you switch to a fixed-rate mortgage?

BMO’s Omar Abouzaher outlines the pros and cons of both types of mortgages

Earth still moving in Old Fort, B.C., but not above homes: geologists

Transportation Ministry crews are ready to start work on the Old Fort road

Around the BCHL: Youth trumps experience for Chilliwack and Salmon Arm

Around the BCHL is a look at goings-on in the BCHL and the junior A world.

Most Read