Orca Whales Arrive on Oregon Coast for Yearly Visit
(Oregon Coast) – Small pods of Killer Whales are being seen along the Oregon coast, arriving almost like clockwork. (Photo above courtesy Whale Watch Center)
The first was reported being seen around Lincoln City on April 11, and since they've been spotted all over.
This group of Orcas is a mystery to scientists: they don't know where they come from. They are transients that simply show up each April, chasing food sources up the Oregon coast. That food source, sadly, is baby Gray Whales, which are starting to be seen heading north now in their migration after birthing.
|Orcas near Florence, photo Seaside Aquarium
These are 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 come here chasing baby whales and seals and sea lions.
Other than that, not much is known about them.
These Orcas will typically stay for a few weeks, but some years they have lingered here into early summer.
ODFW's Brandon Ford, with the Newport office, said they've also received reports from a fisherman off Garibaldi and Tillamook who spotted them there – which is unusually far north for them. More often than not, these Orcas tend to linger around the central Oregon coast.
Yaquina Charters out of Newport reports having seen two Killer Whales last Saturday.
The Whale, Sea Life and Shark Museum in Depoe Bay also runs EcoExcursions Whale Watch Tours, but spokesman Morris Grover said the tour boat had not seen any yet.
“We have had a few tourists coming through that are reporting seeing some,” Grover said.
Grover said the peak for Killer Whales will probably happen in mid-May when the Grays are at their peak.
These Orcas have also been known to do somewhat extraordinary things, like the year one of these Orcas was documented chasing a sea lion up the Yaquina Bay in Newport.
|Orcas near Florence, photo Seaside Aquarium
Seaside Aquarium photographed a pod zipping around sea lions near Florence one year, and for reasons unknown the sea lions had not become alarmed yet.
The Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay is currently closed for remodeling, so there is little compiling of the sightings happening this year. Stay tuned to Oregon Coast Beach Connection for this kind of information, however.
According to state whale officials, if you're going to try and see an Orca, it’s best to aim for spotting Gray whales first. Take along a lot of patience and get to a high vantage point. In the central Oregon coast area, these include the lighthouse at Yaquina Bay, Don Davis Memorial Park in Nye Beach, the Yaquina Head area, and nearby at Cape Foulweather. Just south of Yachats there are numerous high spots, including Cape Perpetua and its visitors center. Lincoln City has several clifftop viewing areas.
On the north Oregon coast, your best bets are Pacific City's Cape Kiwanda, in the Oceanside and Cape Meares area, Neahkahnie Mountain near Manzanita, the viewpoints just south of Cannon Beach and at Ecola State Park.
Your chances of spotting any whale are much greater on days with less turbulent waves.
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