'It was a clash of titans:' Orcas attack gray whales in Puget Sound

Transient or Bigg's killer whales in Saratoga Passage off Whidbey Island. (Photo: Capt. Michael Colahan, Island Adventures Whale Watching and Pangea Pictures).

EVERETT, Wash. - Members of the Pacific Whale Watch Association(PWWA) witnessed a spectacular battle in Puget Sound this week as a pack of transient killer whales took on two 40-ton gray whales.

"It was a clash of titans out there," Island Adventures Whale Watching senior deckhand and naturalist Tyson Reed said in a press release.

"We had just watched this group of (killer whales) conduct an incredibly efficient hunt of some unlucky sea mammal just off the west side of Gedney Island,"said Reed. "But then the show really began."

The PWWA group was off shore from Whidbey Island when they saw four transient killer whales head north into Saratoga Passage, right into the path of two adult gray whales.

"Four killer whales aren't about to take on two 40-ton grays," said Reed. "Or at least we thought they wouldn't. But one of the transients, who we know as T137A, decided to have a go at these guys and the battle was on. Pec fins began to fly left and right as the grays rolled onto their backs and blasted T137A with their blows. They were definitely not happy to have the orca intruding on them and were fighting back."

"It was a major altercation," says Capt. Michael Colahan of Island Adventures. "Both grays rolled over maybe a dozen times. Pretty wild!"

The gray whales are part of a dozen that come into the Puget Sound to feast on shrimp during their annual migration from Southern California to Alaska.

The PWWA said whalers call gray whales "devil fish" because they're the only whales known to fight back when hunted - by whalers or killer whales. They say T137A apparently didn't get the memo. The intrepid orca then found himself in the middle of two extremely perturbed grays.

Over-matched and likely calling for help, the killer whale soon got some backup from his mother, T137. The PWWA says she left her two younger offspring safely about 500 yards to the north, changed direction and headed over to the tussle.

"If orca mothers are like human mothers, chances are Mama sorta grabbed her boy by the ear, gave him a few stern words about picking fights on the playground, and led him away," said Michael Harris, Executive Director of Pacific Whale Watch Association. "And sure enough, after a few more pec slaps and commotion, our young killer whale friend was dusting himself off and heading north with his mother - probably with a scrape or two to remind him to pick on something his own size next time."

The two grays who survived the attack, known by researchers as #56 and #531, had no visible injuries.









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