Seal avoids hungry orcas by hopping on B.C. boat
A whale-watching tour in British Columbia was given an up-close look at the predatory prowess of orca whales -- and the lengths prey will go to survive.
A terrified harbour seal found itself trapped in Frederick Arm, an inlet in northern Vancouver Island, surrounded by a pod of orca whales on Sunday.
Nearby, whale-watching guide Nick Templeman and a tour group watched as the seal tried to figure out what to do next -- and began barrelling toward the boat.
“I didn’t think he’d make it to the boat because they cut him off as he was coming to the boat,” he told CTV Vancouver Island.
But the large harbour seal made it just in time, leaping out of the water and huddling on a small platform behind the motor.
The orcas weren’t thrown off so easily. At least three of the whales floated beside the boat and appeared to be looking for the missing seal. Meanwhile, the tour group pulled out their phones and began recording the remarkable encounter.
Another whale-watching boat, captained by Colin Griffinson, decided that it was probably in everyone’s best interest to leave the seal alone.
“We decided then just to let it play out,” Griffinson said.
Eventually, the orcas moved off, leaving the seal to live another day.
But the traumatized animal wasn’t keen to get back into the ocean, so Griffinson decided to drive the seal to a second location.
Even then, the seal was nervous. Templeman enlisted the on-board dog, Yukon, to try scaring the animal into the water.
“We had Yukon barking at the seal trying to get him off and he’s got this little infatuation with seals so we had him trying to get the seal off the boat. That seal was not moving off of that boat,” Templeman said.
After much waiting, the seal eventually got the message and swam away to safety.
But the orca-versus-seal confrontation wasn’t the only brush with wildlife that day.
“We had a very good encounter with a grizzly bear in the morning,” Griffinson said. “So this was probably the best Canada Day the crew has ever had.”
B.C. has two distinct populations of orcas: fish-eating residents and mammal-eating transients. While the two species look more or less the same, their behaviours – including calls and hunting style -- are quite different.
For instance, resident killer whales use echolocation to help hunt fish, while transients silently stalk their prey to avoid being detected.
Transient orcas have also been known to eat dolphins, Dall’s porpoises and sometimes even other whales.
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island