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Rarely Documented on Oregon Coast: Baby Gray Whale Killed by Orcas Revives Tribal Tradition

Published 5/10/24 at 3:55 p.m.
By Andre' Hagestedt, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Bandon, Oregon) – Experts have assumed it's been going on for decades: a certain set of transient orcas (ones that don't regularly live off these waters) have been coming through in the spring and hunting baby gray whales. However, it was rarely seen and cases of them washing up dead after such attacks weren't really documented. (Photo Jim Rice, MMSN)

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Now, for the second time it's been thoroughly documented, a baby gray whale washed up at Bandon this week with all the signs of being hunted down by orcas.

The incident created a happy ending for some local tribal members, however.

The whale came ashore at night around May 26, with plenty of bite marks.

Jim Rice, head of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, drove from Newport down to Bandon to examine it. He confirmed to Oregon Coast beach Connection:

“Yes - it’s a gray whale calf that recently died due to killer whale predation,” Rice said.

See the full story as it happened, including list of recent orca sightings Baby Gray Whale at Bandon Confirmed Killed by Orcas, Rarely Documented on Oregon Coast - No doubt now that orca season is in full swing

Last year had a similar incident, where what is apparently the first time such a calf kill was documented (at least publicly), when a baby gray came ashore around Otter Rock near Depoe Bay.

Photo Jim Rice, Marine Mammal Stranding Network

That incident marked a startling first: numerous witnesses saw and filmed a pod of this special branch of transient orcas attacking a mother gray and that calf. The calf was eventually killed after hours of epic fighting on the mother's part. Dozens Watch and Document Orcas Attack, Kill Baby Whale on Oregon Coast: More Videos

What was also revealed to the general public – which disturbed many – was that orcas don't always eat what they kill.

“Orcas often only consume a small amount of each carcass they’ve killed,” Rice said.

Photo Jim Rice, Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Many times, they're doing practice runs or teaching their young how to hunt.

The baby calf in Bandon did go to good use, however, as the southern Oregon coast Coquille tribe was able to utilize it for a thousands-of-years-long tradition. Coquille Tribal culture holds that this is a blessing from the creator, and in a ceremony the tribe has not performed in some time, they ensured the blubber and bones would not go to waste.

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Photo Jim Rice, Marine Mammal Stranding Network


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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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