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Orcas Spotted Again on N. Oregon Coast - First Time This Pod Recorded Here

Published 11/28/22 at 4:39 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Orcas Spotted Again on N. Oregon Coast - First Time This Pod Recorded Here

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(Hammond, Oregon) – Orcas seem to have returned to the north Oregon coast, even if only briefly. (Above: photo courtesy Josh McInnes / University of British Columbia. T137 photographed in a previous encounter)

A pod of four were photographed on November 23 in the waters of the Columbia River around Hammond, snapped by Mark Ludwick that day. Photos were posted to the Oregon Coast Killer Whale Sightings page on Facebook (view them here). A rather surprising find this time of year, marine scientist Josh McInnes and his team were able to identify them as a family known as the T137s.

McInnes is out of British Columbia but works extensively on whales in this area. He is currently with the University of British Columbia's Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries Marine Mammal Research Unit as well as the Oceanic Ecology Research Group. He runs the Killer Whale Sightings page.

Photo McInnes: T137a

He said they're a group of killer whales mostly found mostly in the Puget Sound area of Washington State, but also at times off Southern Vancouver Island, the US San Juan Islands, and as far north as Alaska or southward off the California coast. Usually they're seen hunting for harbor seals and found near sea lion haulouts.

“This family is led by the matriarch T137 (born. ~1984), her adult son T137A (born. 2002), 2nd offspring T137B (born. 2006), and 4th offspring T137D (born. 2012),” McInnes said. “Her third offspring T137C died.”

This sighting is a rather surprising one to McInnes' team: it's the first time they've been recorded around the Oregon coast, he said.

Photo McInnes: T137b

After the sighting at the Hammond marina, Ludwick said he saw them again a few miles down shore into Fort Stevens.

They're part of a larger category known as the inner coast transients which hunt mammals.

McInnes told Oregon Coast Beach Connection they were likely on the hunt in the Astoria / river mouth area.

“Searching for harbor seals that were foraging for fish near the entrance of the Columbia River,” he said. “Oregon Coast transient killer whales are commonly encountered searching small outer coast islets and reefs where seals and sea lions may be swimming in kelp beds.”

But it seems they've come back home since that sighting on the 23rd.

“The T137s were all sighted as a group today back in the Salish Sea off Puget Sound,” McInnes said on Sunday night.

Is this unusual, especially this time of year?

“No I would not say unusual,” he said. “Transient killer whales have large distributions along the Pacific coast. But we are more likely to see them off the Oregon coast in spring during the harbor seal pupping season.”

While this group is gone, McInnes is hoping to get more people to sign up with the Oregon Coast Killer Whale Sightings page, so that more eyes are on the coastline keeping a look out. MORE ORCA PHOTOS BELOW

Oregon Coast Hotels in this area - South Coast Hotels - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours

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Photo courtesy Brookings Fishing Charter, taken this spring

Photo Edith Hitchings: an orca at Depoe Bay

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