Killer Whales Spotted All Over Oregon Coast
(Oregon Coast) – Every April, Killer Whales show up on the central Oregon coast in a rather grim ritual of what is believed to be chasing baby Gray whales to munch on. This year, it seems they showed up much earlier and there could be more than usual out there.
These Killer whales are what are known as “transient” whales, meaning whale experts don't really know where they come from. They’re also more predatory, living off seals and baby Gray whales.
When they show up, they are usually seen in the Depoe Bay and Newport areas, but can be spotted as far north as Cascade Head and as far south as Florence. However, this year, there are spotty reports of them on the north coast as well.
Gray whales are still moving through the waters off the central coast with babies in tow, and it’s believed this is what attracts the Orcas.
Morris Grover, with the Whale Watch Spoken Here program, said they spotted a much greater number than usual - and much earlier than usual - during the Whale Watch Week in March.
“We had six or seven sightings of them during that week,” Grover said. “We always have them during Whale Watch, but this is four or five times more than normal. We also saw a lot more baby Gray whales during that time. While we don’t know why the Orcas showed up so soon, we think it’s possible they figured out the babies were around and were hunting them.”
Carrie Newell runs Whale Research EcoExcursions in Depoe Bay, and she said she also spotted two off central coast waters in early April.
However, it seems some were seen recently by surfers in the Barview area, around Tillamook Bay. Staff at Seaside Aquarium said the U.S. Coast Guard reported seeing a few offshore near Cape Lookout as well in the middle of April.
Grover said these Orcas are smaller and more shark-like in appearance than what are nicknamed the “friendly” whales, which visit here from the San Juan Islands and live on salmon.
Aside from that, they are a mystery to local whale experts. No one knows much about them, nor where they come from. They also seem to run in smaller groups than most Orcas.
While initial sightings indicate more of these great watery beasts, the heavy wave action that’s been happening most of this month has made seeing them difficult.
There are some dramatic reports of the Orcas periodically hanging around near the mouth of Newport’s Yaquina Bay, but also spectacular video footage of them wandering the entrance to Nehalem Bay – where at one point they were seen chomping on a seal. A few years ago, a Killer whale was seen zipping through Yaquina Bay chasing after a sea lion.
How do you see one of these killers yourself? Ladd Irvine, with the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, says it’s not possible to seek them out – it’s a matter of luck.
“It’s very hit and miss,” Irvine said.
If you’re going to try, it’s best to shoot for spotting Gray whales. 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.
Your chances of spotting any whale are much greater on days with less turbulent waves.These Orcas will typically stay for a few weeks, but some years they have lingered here into early summer.
More About Oregon Coast lodging.....
LATEST OREGON COAST NEWS STORIES
Back to Oregon Coast Beach Connection