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Orca Sightings Along Oregon Coast Through the Roof This Month, Video

Published 05/16/22 at 7:05 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Orca Sightings Along Oregon Coast Through the Roof This Month, Video

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(Oregon Coast) – Orca sightings are through the roof along the Oregon coast this last week or two, with major documentation and even video from areas like Sea Lion Caves near Florence, Coos Bay, Gold Beach, Yachats, Newport and more. (Above: Orcas photographed near Florence by Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe several years back)

Your chances of spotting one right now, especially from the central Oregon coast southward, are much better than usual.

Most of the whale watch groups for Oregon are seriously lighting up as of late, except for the group that concentrates on the northern Oregon coast and south Washington coast, but there have a few gray whale sightings noted there.

Today – May 16 – has been on fire for the area around Yachats and Seal Rock, with a few sightings noted there, though it's all likely the same group of killer whales.

May 13 was a big one around Coos Bay, with 7 Devils Waterfront Alehouse reporting a few out in front of their waterfront business.

“To our knowledge, this is the third time they have entered the bay within the last 3-4 weeks,” they said on social media.

On May 12, there were a few in Yaquina Bay at Newport, surprising many. Before that, May 6 saw a couple stellar moments of killer whale activity in Coos Bay again, this time with some effervescent glee caught on video by Kaileen Flora (above).

There are about ten other documented sightings from other Oregon coast whale groups as well.

Josh McInnes of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C. is one of the lead researchers with the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries Marine Mammal Research Unit, and they have been keeping a close eye on all the activity here off Oregon's shores. That group, in collaboration with others, put out a major publication last summer documenting many of the individuals that come through the Oregon coast and California.

McInnes told Oregon Coast Beach Connection they saw a major uptick in killer whale activity on the Oregon coast starting back in April. Since then they've received 10 sightings of orcas here.

Since the starting of April our research team at the University of British Columbia's Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries Marine Mammal Research Unit have received 10 sightings of killer whales off the Oregon coast.

“Six of these have been transient killer whales and two of them have been of the endangered southern resident killer whale population,” he said.

Why so many out here? McInnes and his colleagues think it has more to do with baby seals than baby gray whales, as has been the thinking for the last two decades.

“During the spring months of April through June harbor seals start to pup off the Oregon coast and during this time we receive more reports of transient killer whales than the rest of the year,” McInnes said. “This is likely a result of the whales taking advantage of the increased availability of prey.”

He also said these whales look quite familiar, according to the massive catalog the groups have together.

“All the transient killer whales we have been identifying seem to be groups that visit regions of the Oregon coast frequently,” McInnes said.

All this doesn't mean you're going to see an orca for sure, and no one knows how long this streak will last. However, it's a good bet that you're chances of spotting one or a group of them has gone up by at least a few percentage points.

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Photos above courtesy Edith HItchings

Photo courtesy Whale Watching Center, Depoe Bay

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