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Killer Whales in a Frantic Hunt for Dolphins Off San Clemente

Killer whales came in hungry off San Clemente on a Monday.

A pod of orca made an appearance off San Clemente that surprised everyone last Monday, July 29, 2019. The group of killer whales seen in the waters is thought to be Eastern Tropical Pacific only seen a few times along the Southern California coast.

It was an exciting show for whale watchers in charters. They even rushed to the water to get a closer look at the giant mammals that can usually be seen in Mexico and Costa Rica.

So far this year, this was orcas first local appearance.

The orca pods show began on mid-day Monday when the Oceanside Whale Watching initially spotted two orcas. Killer whales were heading toward the Orange County coast.

Locals and visitors got a front row seating of a seemingly National Geographic-style hunting as the orcas chased dolphins across the sea. This incident is similar to what an orca pod did last September 2018 of the Orange County and San Diego Coastline.

Ryan Lawler, the owner of Newport Coastal Adventure, was about to leave on a fishing trip that Monday morning. He then surprisingly got a word and shut down the coast to join the Dana Wharf and Oceanside whale-watching charters off Camp Pendleton.

It wasn’t long before the sea creatures began their hunt.

According to Lawler, killer whales were like wolves chasing down their prey as they persisted in pursuing a dolphin pod. It was surprising as they swam at a constant pace to pin down their prey.

A photographer named Mark Girardeau was on one of the boats when more orcas appeared on the visible waters. He recounted that all of a sudden, more killer whales were spotted in the distance. After several minutes, they all joined together and totaled to at least ten orcas.

The type of orcas usually seen in the local waters is known as ‘transients.’ But these ETP tropical whales were nothing like those kinds. They have darker saddle patches, smaller eye patches, and barnacles on their dorsal fins, Girardeau added.

California Killer Whale Project co-founder Alisa Schulman-Janiger also witnessed the spectacular and natural show. She quoted, “a fantastic encounter with very rarely seen whales — even rarer as they are here during summer rather than winter.”

Schulman-Janiger added that it’s an unusual time to see them. They mostly show up from November through January because they like the warmer water being tropical whales.

She will start analyzing pictures taken on that day to identify the pod based on their distinct characteristics. Her early suspicion is that they’re not the same pod that appeared last year.

They may not be the same kind that appeared last year, but it doesn’t mean these groups haven’t made an appearance before. The California Killer Whale Project co-founder mentions that there are more known ETP orcas.

Monday morning came and photographer Matt Larmand an extraordinary day while onboard on a Dana Wharf Whale Watching boat. He got to witness ‘insanely smart creatures’ he’ll never forget in a lifetime.

He said that the orcas vanished from the visible waters, then a pod of 20 to 30 dolphins suddenly stampeded in the distance. Killer whales came in from different directions to separate an adult dolphin from its calf.

Larmand said, “They went after that baby. I guess that was an easier target.”

The photographer added that orcas come from different directions. The predators were enclosing the area where they want their prey to go. It was a crazy and exciting thing to watch for him. The sea creatures know well on what they’re doing.

What makes the show even more fantastic is seeing a mother dolphin trying to save its calf both times when orcas strategically went after the babies. It was an unusual and heartbreaking sight to behold.

He added, even after the baby dolphin was killed and became meat to the wolves of the sea, the mom stayed. It was circling the killer whales like ‘What did you do to my baby’?.”

Lawler thought that after a baby dolphin was caught the mother would hurry and get out of the area. A video was recorded using his drone, showing an orca eating a baby while the mother circles around the orcas.

But common dolphins are only about 6-feet long. It’s plain to see that they’re no match versus the 20-feet orcas. There was no way the mother could’ve done to save her baby, but she still tried.

He expressed, “I was really impressed with a common dolphin’s motherly instincts.”

It’s merely the circle of life, he added. He was not of what he witnessed. He was watching how nature works all day long. Anchovies are getting eaten every day. We need to take an objective look at events like this as a balance of the ocean.

Lawler was even excited because it was so amazing, that was the only excitement he felt. He was there to witness more and more instances of events that are naturally happening pff the Orange County coast and it’s incredible.

As stated by Captain Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari, the small group of orcas was also ‘mugging’ or came up for a close look with their heads out of the water.

Captain Dave’s released a statement that said that whale’ muggings’ happen when a group of animals or an animal takes a special interest in a boat and behave in a friendly and curious manner.

As of today, little is known about ETP orcas though the statement mentioned that it’s clear that marine mammals make up at least a part of their diet.

Orcas, or more known as killer whales, are dolphins, not whales. They’re the enormous member of the dolphin family.

The last time this pod of killer whales came to town, they bounced around Orange County coast for about a week and a half chasing dolphins. Their course started from San Diego to San Clemente, Dana Point, and until Laguna Beach. Orca lovers and enthusiasts hope that it will be the same this time.

As Schulman-Janiger said, all eyes open on the water for more sightings of orcas in San Clemente and the rest of Orange County.


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