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.


Last updated: August 22, 2017

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