2013 Spring Killer Whale Watch

Posted by The Oregon Coast / May 1, 2013

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Another gray whale migration is gathering steam and that means the appearance of something a little more ominous: pods of Killer Whales that pursue them.

Every April, almost like clockwork, a small group of Orcas show up on the central Oregon coast – and they have already been seen in fairly decent numbers in the area. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) officials expect there to be even more in the coming weeks as the gray whale migration picks up.

ODFW said they’ve been seen as far north as Tillamook Bay and Lincoln City in April. Other reports are coming in from tourists in the Newport, Depoe Bay areas, and some whale watching tours have reported seeing them as well, according to ODFW.

These Orcas are a bit of a mystery. They are transients, and scientists don’t really know where they come from. This group even looks a little different than most Orcas: these are smaller and more shark-like in appearance. They hang out in smaller groups and come here chasing baby whales and seals and sea lions, as gray whales head northward with newborns in tow.

This group of Orcas is not like the so-called “friendly” Killer Whales, which come from here from the San Juan Islands and live on salmon. These are looking to feed on the baby whales.

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Typically, they will typically stay for a few weeks, but some years they have lingered here into early summer.

They’ve also been known to do somewhat extraordinary things, like the time one of these Orcas was documented chasing a sea lion up the Yaquina Bay in Newport, according to the Whale Watch Center.

According to the center, if you’re going to try and see an Orca, it’s best to shoot for spotting Gray whales first. Take along a lot of patience and get to a high vantage point. In the Newport area, these include the lighthouse at Yaquina Bay, Don Davis Memorial Park in Nye Beach, the Yaquina Head area, and nearby at Cape Foulweather. The headquarters for the Whale Watch Spoken Here program is in Depoe Bay, at the seawall, and is another good spot for seeing them as well.

The Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay is usually the best place for advice on spotting whales, but they are closed down for remodeling until June.

ODFW suggests your chances of spotting any whale are much greater on days with less turbulent waves. You can also call the Newport Chamber for advice on whales in the area: 800-262-7844

Submitted By: Brandon Ford, ODFW

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