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It's Now Killer Whale Season on Central Oregon Coast
(Depoe Bay, Oregon) – Every April, a varying number of Killer Whales show up on the central Oregon coast, usually only in that 100-mile stretch between Florence and the Lincoln City area. They're here largely to feed on baby gray whales, which are still coming up through these waters. (Whale photos courtesy Whale Watch Center)
Usually they've been spotted by this time in April, but they've been a no-show so far – although the weather hadn't been conducive to seeing them, either. But today, according to state officials, may have officially kicked off killer whale season along the central Oregon coast.
Linda Taylor, with the Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay, said five Orcas showed up today.
“We hadn't seen any this month, then five showed up today,” Taylor said. “They hung around for about 40 minutes.”
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.
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. They also run in smaller groups than most Killer Whales.
That is pretty much what is known about them; they are largely a mystery to whale scientists.
These Orcas will typically stay for a few weeks, but some years they have lingered here into early summer.
In the past, there have been some very dramatic reports of these Orcas' activities on the Oregon coast. In the last ten years they've been seen up as far as Rockaway Beach where they entered the Nehalem Bay to chomp on a seal, one Killer Whale was spotted chasing a sea lion through Yaquina Bay in Newport, and they were seen marauding around the Heceta Head Lighthouse area near Florence and surprisingly not scaring the local seals and sea lions. The Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay said they've seen them lingering in that area and occasionally dining on a baby whale.
You're generally not going to spot them in north Oregon coast areas like Cannon Beach, Seaside, Manzanita or Oceanside, but they have been known to wander there periodically.
Experts say it's difficult to spot them – but not impossible – especially around the central Oregon coast in April and May.
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.
Below, high vantage points like this one near Cannon Beach will help you spot a gray whale of a killer whale.
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