2022 Encounters

UAV Encounter #6 - May 19, 2022
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Photos taken under Federal Permits

NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388

EncDate:19/05/22 

Enc#:6

PhotoEnc#:24

ObservBegin:03:46 PM

ObservEnd:05:49 PM

Vessel:Orcinus

UAV ID:Columbia

Pilot:Michael Weiss

Operators:Mia Lybkær Kronborg Nielsen

Other Observers:Rachel John

Pods:Transients

LocationDescr:Bellingham Channel

Start Latitude:48 33.656

Start Longitude:122 40.035

End Latitude:48 36.467

End Longitude:122 41.988

EncSummary:

Just before 14:00, a report came in of a small group of killer whales off of Anacortes. At 14:23, Michael, Mia, and Rachel left Snug to conduct behavioural observations of this group.

The team arrived on scene off the southeast side of Cypress Island at 15:46. The whales were already on a kill, so the team quickly launched the drone to observe how the group processed and shared their prey. From the drone and photographs, the team identified the group as the T75Bs.

The whales milled on their kill for several minutes before heading north up Bellingham Channel. After they passed the Cone Islands, they made several large direction changes before apparently chasing and pinning down a seal. The whales took turns at the surface, while presumably the other whales kept the seal from escaping.

After several minutes, the whales made a sudden move towards the shoreline of one of the islands. There, the team observed T75B surface very close to the island with a seal in her mouth, still alive. She released the seal, which was then briefly chased and picked up by T75B2. T75B grabbed the seal again, before once again releasing it to be picked up by T75B3. Finally, T75B3 released the seal, at which point T75B grabbed it by the head and shook it, ending the hunt.

As T75B3 and T75B4 began processing the seal, T75B and T75B2 broke off and chased a river otter which had been hiding in a kelp bed. T75B primarily watched and herded the otter while her daughter took repeated lunges. After a brief chase, the whales left the otter and returned to their seal kill.

The team continued to follow the whales as they processed their meal and socialised. At 17:49, the team ended their encounter as the whales approached the north end of Bellingham Channel.