Let’s call it the War of the Whales, after a group of giant humpbacks faced off against a pod of orcas in an epic clash recently in Georgia Strait.
The two groups appeared to be fighting over territory, Claudia Milia, spokesman for Prince of Whales, told West Coast Now.
Humpback whales and orcas, a type of dolphin commonly known as killer whales, usually avoid each other off the BC coast.
However, one type of orca called transients, or Biggs killer whales, sometimes hunt baby humpback whales as prey. Researchers worldwide have reported adult humpbacks moving against orcas to protect not only their young but also other species.
“The folks on the boat were really thrilled … but this is super rare, so I don’t want to mislead customers in future. The chances are seeing this ever again are slim.”Claudia Milia, spokesman for Prince of Whales
In this rare encounter in BC, said Milia, the humpbacks looked like they were the aggressors.
Observers on the boat reported that the humpbacks were vocalizing loudly, and “it looked like the humpbacks were chasing the orcas from their territory,” she said.
As required by law, the tour boat shut off its engines when the whales were spotted and stayed away from them, said Milia. But the fighting whales “got really, really close to the boat, which is also really rare.”
The passengers on the tour on Sept. 24 got far more than they bargained for.
“This is NOT the standard for whale watching,” said Milia. “The folks on the boat were really thrilled … but this is super rare, so I don’t want to mislead customers in future. The chances of seeing this ever again are slim.”