SEATTLE (WHDH) - Whale watchers in the strait between the U.S. and Canada captured a rare sight on camera when they spotted a few humpbacks facing off with a large group of orcas.
“I’ve loved whales my whole life, so I cried three times yesterday on the boat,” naturalist Mollie Naccarato, who witnessed the encounter, said. “Even doing this every day, things like that just truly take your breath away.”
At first glace, the video shows the orcas splashing in the water, drawing the attention of nearby tour boats. Later, the video captures a humpback whale, which tend to avoid these killer whales.
“There was definitely a lot of kind of harassment of each other,” Naccarato said. She added that the orcas involved in the encounter were Bigg’s or transient orcas, which are known to eat seals, sea lions, harbor porpoises and humpback calves.
Researchers said these whales were older, and IDed them as a group born near Mexico and Hawaii. Although it’s possible that the orcas were the aggressors, past research suggests that humpbacks can harass orcas while they hunt prey.
“There have been a few occasions in recent years that our naturalists have actually seen humpback whales come to the rescue of other animals like sea lions that were being chased by orcas,” another expert said.
In April, naturalists observed a humpback acting aggressively near a group of killer whales. They think he had been attacked by some in the past, so he may have had some unfinished business.
The Pacific Whale Watch Association said these types of encounters are rare.
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