Friday, 5 May 2017

‘Unprecedented’ series of killer whale attacks filmed in California

May 1, 2017

by Chuck Bednar

A group of orcas was caught on video killing a gray whale calf last Friday – the latest fatality in what experts are calling an “unprecedented” series of attacks which were led by a group of nine related killer whales and which claimed a total of four victims over a seven-day span.

The attacks have taken place in Monterey Bay, California, and the most recent occurred on Wednesday and was filmed by Nancy Black, a marine biologist at Monterey Bay Whale Watch, according to reports published by The Guardian and the San Francisco Chronicle. The video shows the group of nine orcas separating a gray whale calf from its mother and killing it over the span of just 20 minutes. Earlier attacks had involved as many as 33 killer whales, said Black, but the same group of nine orcas, related across four generations and led by a matriarch.

Orca attacks often take hours to complete and are unsuccessful, the biologist explained. But the efficiency of Wednesday’s kill was “like a record,” she told The Guardian. “I’ve been studying them for 30 years... [and] this has really never happened before... It’s pretty unprecedented just because the same group of killer whales has been feeding on them each time.”
Delayed start to hunting season likely to blame

In a typical killer whale attack, Black told the Chronicle, the mother gray whale uses her tail in an attempt to fight off the predators, and will also roll over, belly-up with her calf on top. But in Wednesday’s attack, she said, the mother and calf were skinnier and likely weaker than typical gray whales, making them easier prey for the hunting orcas.

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