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Timely, Deeper Look at Oregon Coast Orcas in Presentation on March 9

Published 03/03/22 at 5:02 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Timely, Deeper Look at Oregon Coast Orcas in Presentation on March 9

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(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – The world of orcas along the Oregon coast comes alive in a new presentation by the World of Haystack Rock Library Series, with a lecture on March 9 called “Ecological Aspects of Transient Killer Whales off the California and Oregon Coast.” Starting online at 7 p.m., it features Josh McInness of the Marine Mammal Research Unit Institute for the Oceans Fisheries in British Columbia, one of the more high-profile researchers right now in that world. (Photo courtesy Selena Rivera)

The presentation is found on Facebook Live @Friends of Haystack Rock.

McInnes has helped make some considerable advances in knowledge about the so-called transient killer whales seen off the Washington, Oregon and California coastlines. He and a handful of groups connected to his colleagues in Canada – including NOAA – cataloged in great detail almost 150 killer whales that are seen off the West Coast. Their research has focused on the myriad and very distinctive transients, not the resident killer whales of the Puget Sound, which are much more understood. This group of orcas has a lot of mystery surrounding them, and there are still a great number of unanswered questions.

McInnes' presentation will look at “recent trends in transient killer whale foraging behaviour, seasonality, distribution, and occurrence patterns,” he told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “This includes an update for trends off the Oregon coast and California region.”

This past summer, he helped put out a landmark publication called “Transient Killer Whales of Central and Northern California and Oregon: a Catalog of Photo-Identified Individuals.” It features pictures and details of over 140 of the transients off this region's waters.

“Information on our recent photo-identification efforts will also be shared,” McInnes said.

Transient killer whales are important apex predators in marine ecosystems along the Oregon, Washington and California coasts. He'll also talk about the latest findings regarding ecology, how many there are, distribution, and community structure of these whales along the outer coast and offshore waters of Oregon and California.

Previously, McInnes has told Oregon Coast Beach Connection that Oregon waters present a unique challenge when it comes to these nomadic cetaceans: not as many are spotted here as up north or south.

McInnes is from the windy seaside city of Victoria BC, Canada. There, his research focuses on the ecology and behavior of marine mammals in British Columbia and Monterey Bay, California, with projects where he's researched the foraging behavior, diet, and ecology of transient (Bigg’s) killer whales and Risso’s Dolphins.

Three years ago, McInnes and his colleagues surprised Oregon experts when they learned some of these groups had been cataloging the transients for several years.

The presentation comes at an interesting moment when there are signs orcas are already in the region, and a tad earlier than usual. The transient killer whales normally start appearing along the Oregon coast and Washington coast in late March or April, following the gray whale migrations northward. However, late February saw an impressive sighting around Brookings as two were spotted chasing harbor seals.

The Friends of Haystack Rock Library Series are recurring lectures with different speakers and topics. They are held on the second Wednesday of every month from November to May.

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Photo of killer whales off Oregon coast courtesy Josh McInnes

Courtesy Oregon State Parks

Photo of killer whales off Oregon coast courtesy Josh McInnes

Orca off Depoe Bay, courtesy Edith Hitchings

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