San Diegans – I just received word that orcas were sighted off La Jolla last Friday. They aren’t sighted close to shore here very often, so this is pretty unusual. Above is a photo that the Birch Aquarium sent out. Although there’s only one official species of orca, there’s a whole bunch of “ecotypes” that have different foods and ranges. The ones in La Jolla were probably the transient ecotype, which are mammal specialists, feeding off seals, sea lions, and baleen whales. They might have been in shore by La Jolla to munch on some harbor seals, or maybe to follow the beginnings of the southward gray whale migration.
Transient orcas are skilled whale predators – they look all cute at Sea World, but a pod can take down a full-grown blue whale, usually by ripping out its tongue and letting it bleed to death. I haven’t been to Sea World since I was a kid, but it would please me to no end if they were giving accurate information out about their pet orcas. Like, for example, showing this BBC video of orcas in Alaska eating a grey whale calf – the very same population of grey whale calves that people in San Diego watch on their migration north, or drive down to Baja del Sur, Mexico to coo over and pet.
For more orca fun, here’s an amazing photo taken by a friend of one of my professors, showing a couple orcas tossing a minke whale yearling into the air. (That’s the minke calf in the air, and the fin of the orca underneath.) Orcas sometimes will play with their smaller prey like cats, batting them around and letting them try to swim free before catching them again. People need to remember that cute things dying in nasty ways, often at the teeth of other cute things, is the way of nature. Too many people forget this and do stupid shit like petting wild grizzly bears or trying to make their cat a vegetarian.