For Killer Whales, It's all About Family

August 22, 2017 Posted by: Dena Matkin (North Gulf Oceanic Society)
killer whale tail

On August 14, 2017 West Coast (Bigg’s) Transient killer whale T124A2 (granddaughter of T124) killed and ate a harbor porpoise at the mouth of Bartlett Cove with the help of her four-year-old juvenile and one-year-old calf.

killer whale with porpoise in mouth

They milled around it, chased it, lob-tailed on it, before the cow lunged and caught it in her mouth.  She left it floating motionless on the surface of the water. 

killer whale and blood

The juvenile was then able to grab and tear off a bite of it as the blood came pouring out.

blood at killer whale kill

The calf joined in on the small feast and both of the young ones began playing with the remaining pieces of porpoise, making fast turns together and tail-scooping them to the surface.

killer whales tail and dorsal

Only then did they acknowledge my presence.  The juvenile closely skimmed by my idling boat, revealing its very identifiable eye patches. 
 
killer whale dorsal fin and eye patch

The white parts of the calf appeared light-orange, and its yet-to-develop saddle patch very dark grey. These markings will be used by biologists to identify this individual over the course of its life.

killer whale calf

When they finished eating, line-abreast, the little family continued their southward journey out of Glacier Bay.  

All photographs were taken under NMFS Research Permit #20341.



 

11 Comments Comments icon

  1. Tracie
    November 02, 2017 at 11:11
     

    Amazing photos, Aunt Dena. Photographing these amazing creatures is on my bucket list for sure.

     
  2. Jim
    October 26, 2017 at 10:28
     

    Dena, thanks for the description. We were watching and loving the experience as well. It was awesome and unforgettable!

     
  3. Sharon B
    September 26, 2017 at 08:22
     

    Wow Dena! Amazing photos. It must have been amazing to watch. Thanks for sharing.

     
  4. Dianne
    September 26, 2017 at 07:26
     

    Incredible photos! Now I understand why you go back every year.

     
  5. Michael Boardman
    September 01, 2017 at 03:41
     

    What an awesome encounter! Love the photos Dena, reminds me of my early morning orca encounter on the first day of my residency, in about the same spot.

     
  6. Craig
    August 23, 2017 at 01:23
     

    Great photos Dena, great encounter! Thanks for posting. Craig

     
  7. Craig
    August 23, 2017 at 01:23
     

    Great photos Dena, great encounter! Thanks for posting. Craig

     
  8. Craig
    August 23, 2017 at 01:22
     

    Great photos Dena, great encounter! Thanks for posting. Craig

     
  9. Deb
    August 23, 2017 at 12:56
     

    WOW, Dena! Incredible photos of an amazing moment that you captured!! Thank you for all of your dedication and hard work and for sharing your photos, research, and great narrative above!!!

     
  10. Beth Ann Mathews
    August 22, 2017 at 08:35
     

    Spectacular photos and wonderful narrative made me feel as if I was with the researcher for a few split seconds of this dramatic and fascinating interaction between transient killer whales and a harbor porpoise. I so appreciate being able to have these glimpses about what's happening in Glacier Bay in near real time. Thank you to everyone involved in making this website possible. --Beth

     
  11. Beth Ann Mathews
    August 22, 2017 at 08:34
     

    Spectacular photos and wonderful narrative made me feel as if I was with the researcher for a few split seconds of this dramatic and fascinating interaction between transient killer whales and a harbor porpoise. I so appreciate being able to have these glimpses about what's happening in Glacier Bay in near real time. Thank you to everyone involved in making this website possible. --Beth

     
 
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Last updated: August 22, 2017

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