Killer Whales All Over Oregon Coast, Grays Aplenty
(Oregon Coast) – Killer whales have officially been spotted along the Oregon coast. In fact, it seems these mysterious visitors have showed up early. Meanwhile, Gray whales are aplenty around the region as well. (Above: Orcas, courtesy Whale Watch Center).
Every spring, almost like clockwork, a slightly different breed of Orcas start hitting the Oregon coast, usually about April. These are “transient” killer whales, and they have a slightly different, more shark-like appearance. They show up to chase the baby gray whales as they migrate north with their parents, feeding on those.
This particular group of Orcas is not like the so-called “friendly” Killer Whales, which come here from the San Juan Islands and live on salmon. Not much else is known about them. Where they come from is a bit of a mystery.
Renee Fowler, with the Whale Watch Spoken Here program at Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department, said they began showing up in various areas in mid March.
“We have recently had numerous transient Orca sightings,” Fowler said. “Seven Orcas were spotted off Pacific City on March 16. Seven Orcas were also spotted off of Cape Perpetua on March 22 and 23. Four were spotted off of Pacific City on March 28, and seven were spotted off Boiler Bay hunting a couple of sea lions (in Depoe Bay) in the evening of March 29.”
Typically, this group of Orcas sticks around for about a month or so, but some years they have lingered well into summer. Sticking to the central Oregon coast is their tendency as well.
They also have a habit of creating some wild, intense drama.
One spring in the early 2000's, a killer whale was seen chasing a seal past Newport's Yaquina Bay and quite a ways into the Yaquina River.
Last year, some incredible photos appeared of them literally gunning at high speed for prey near Yachats. Other reports from the Depoe Bay Whale Watch Center had them corralling prey in groups within sight of the center.
According to the center, if you're going to try and see an Orca, it’s best to shoot for spotting Gray whales first. 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.
“We have been seeing a lot of mother and calf Gray whale pairs throughout this month along with lots of northern migrating individual Gray whales,” Fowler said.
Some great spots to view them on the north coast include Cape Kiwanda near Pacific City, Cape Lookout and Cape Meares near Netarts, Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain. and Cape Falcon near Manzanita, and Silver Point near Cannon Beach. Bring your binoculars or spotting scope for best viewing
On the central Oregon coast, great vantage points include Cape Foulweather, the higher cliffs of Newport and Lincoln City, and many areas around Yachats, especially the viewpoints around Cape Perpetua.
They can still be clearly seen from numerous low-lying sandy beaches, however. Rockaway Beach resident Patti Barry caught numerous shots in the last few days of a Gray whale cavorting in the surf, not far away (above).
Call the Whale Watch Center for more on the Orcas and Grays at 541-765-3304. More about Oregon coast whales, including guides, how to's and news.
Photo above: an Orca, courtesy Whale Watch Center
Gray whale and her calf, Seaside. Courtesy Seaside Aquarium
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