On the Hunt

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It was one of the most spectacular wildlife moments of the season: seven transient (mammal-eating) killer whales trapped and encircled a big herd of about 150 Pacific white-sided dolphins in the head of Phillips Arm. Cornered by the killer whales, the little dolphins dashed back and forth along the shore, trying to escape along the shallows where the much larger whales couldn't reach them. The suspense of witnessing this very rare event was breathtaking. Much of the action took place out of sight beneath the surface. These moments of complete silence and stillness were suddenly shattered when a killer whale would leap out of the water and come crashing back down on a dolphins that had been cut from the herd. All would be quiet again and there was nothing to see but ripples on the surface.

After an hour of pursuit along the shore, most of the dolphins had managed to slip past the cordon of killer whales, leaving only a dozen dolphins in a small bay along the shore. Then the final act began. The killer whales, realizing that their prey was hopelessly trapped, grouped together and swam to the head of the bay, making no attempt to hide themselves. But just when we thought the final attack would begin, the killer whales turned and slowly made their way out of the bay, remaining quietly at the mouth. A short while later, the dolphins, thinking the coast was clear, made a final desperate dash for open sea, only to find the killer whales had not gone very far.

One of our guests captured this great video of the hunt.


~ Aaron Nagler, Wildlife Guide