(Newport, Oregon) – The somewhat mysterious “transient” Killer Whales are back on the central Oregon coast, this time with some spectacular photo documentation.
Every year they show up, usually around April, following gray whales as they migrate northward with their young, looking to feed on the newborn whales.
Renee Fowler, with the Whale Spoken Here program, said they began showing up in various areas in mid March.
“We have recently had numerous transient Orca sightings,” Fowler said. “Seven Orcas were spotted off Pacific City on March 16. Seven Orcas were also spotted off of Cape Perpetua on March 22 and 23. Four were spotted off of Pacific City on March 28, and seven were spotted off Boiler Bay hunting a couple of sea lions (in Depoe Bay) in the evening of March 29.”
Typically, once they arrive they tend to linger around central coast, from Yachats up as far as Cascade Head by Lincoln City.
They also have a habit of creating some wild, intense drama.
One spring in the early 2000’s, a killer whale was seen chasing a seal past Newport’s Yaquina Bay and quite a ways into the Yaquina River.
Last year, some incredible photos appeared of them literally gunning for prey at high speed near Yachats. Other reports from the Depoe Bay Whale Watch Center had them corralling prey in groups within sight of the center.
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 kinds of whales are smaller and more shark-like in appearance, hang out in smaller groups, and they come here chasing baby whales and seals and sea lions.
Other than that, not much is known about them. In fact, they are a bit of a mystery.
These Orcas will typically stay for a few weeks, but some years they have lingered here into early summer.
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 another good spot for seeing them as well.
Numerous whale watch tours operate out of both Newport and Depoe Bay, greatly increasing your odds of seeing them.
Your chances of spotting any whale are much greater on days with less turbulent waves. Call Beverly Beach State Park for more information at (541) 265-4560, as the Whale Watch Center is currently closed for renovations.
Photo by Edith Hitchings, Whale Watch Center, taken near Depoe Bay