Orcas Are Killing Gray Whales At An Unprecedented Rate

Posted: Apr 30 2017, 11:39pm CDT | by , Updated: Apr 30 2017, 11:45pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Orcas are Killing Gray Whales at an Unprecedented Rate
Orcas or killer whales swim in Monterey Bay on Wednesday. Credit: Daniel Bianchetta - Monterey Bay Whale Watch

Killer whales attack on gray whales up in California's Monterey Bay

An unusual rise in gray whale killings by orcas has been observed in California’s Monterey Bay this year. Since April, killer whales attacked and killed four gray whale calves in the span of just eight days.

Killer whales hunting gray whales calves is a normal sight but numbers are unusual this year and scientists are calling the killing spree in the area “unprecedented.”

“Usually the killer whales come in and out. They aren't here every single day. We see them more often in April than May by far, but they just seem to be hanging around and waiting for more gray whales to come through.” Marine biologist Nancy Black told Monterey Herald.

Orcas are apex predators, sitting at the top of the food chain. No other animal can hunt orcas but they themselves prey on almost any animal they find in the sea such as gray whales.

Every year, gray whales migrate along the California coast. But they must get past packs of killer whales on their way through the coast where deadly marine predators eagerly await for their arrival.

This year’s first known attack was occurred on April 20 and it invovled 33 orcas. In the latest attack, nine orcas killed a gray whale calf on Wednesday in front of spectators on a tour boat operated by Monterey Bay Whale Watch. And it took them just 20 minutes to complete the process, compared with the several hours it usually takes a pod of orcas to separate a calf from its mother and drown it.

“They (killer whales) learn different methods of hunting from different areas so it's passed on through the generations," said Black. “They learn early because it's pretty dangerous for the killer whales to hunt a gray whale because the mother gray whale can slam them with their fluke.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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