I happened to get video of them hunting seals near Grandma’s Cove on San Juan Island’s southern coast this summer. I couldn’t say for certain whether they were successful, but they seemed to be, since they appeared to linger just under the surface near this spot for quite a while afterward, as if they were feeding.
For what it’s worth, the Bigg’s orcas are anything but endangered. Their population appears to be healthy and growing. We’re also seeing them a great deal more in the interior waters of the Salish Sea than we used to, in part because we’re seeing residents—who notoriously chase the Bigg’s orcas, who travel in smaller pods, out of their waters—so infrequently.
The other big piece of that puzzle is the great abundance of pinnipeds in the area now, whose population is flourishing along with a bountiful supply of baitfish. That’s drawn more Bigg’s orcas, naturally. There’s a reason that local wags sometimes refer to the harbor seals sunning themselves on haulouts as “rock sausages,” and not just because that’s what they look like.
The wise scientists I talk with about all this tell me that these are all signs that the oceanic ecosystem here is changing, away from the larger fish like salmon that used to dominate and toward the smaller baitfish that nourish seals and attract humpback whales too. I believe them.
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