Orca spotted punting seal off Vancouver Island
A transient orca is pictured launching a seal into the air near Vancouver Island: (Five Star Whale Watching)
VICTORIA -- A transient orca showed off its immense strength as it launched a seal into the air off the coast of Vancouver Island over the weekend.
Images of the hunt were shared by the operators of Five Star Whale Watching in Victoria, who spotted the orcas near Sidney Island at 3:15 p.m. Sunday.
While it is common for transient orcas, or Bigg’s killer whales, to hunt other marine mammals like seals, the method seen Sunday is unusual, according to the whale watching company.
“Most of the hunting and the leading up to the kill happens under the surface of the water,” said Alexa Desautels, office manager and naturalist for Five Star Whale Watching.
“So, the sheer act of punting that seal up is certainly rare.”
Desautels says there are many reasons why the orca may have been launching the seal into the air.
While the killer whale is an adult, it is also considered a “young bull” and may have been testing its own strength or demonstrating its strength to members of its pod, the T10 family.
Desautels adds that if there are young members of a pod around, orcas may sometimes toy with their prey to teach the younger orcas how to hunt.
Unlike their cousins, the southern resident killer whales, transient orca populations have been steadily increasing over the past several years, according to Five Star.
The population growth is largely credited to having an ample supply of marine mammal prey, like harbour seals and steller sea lions.