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First Big Killer Whale Sightings for Oregon Coast Season Spectacular - Includes Baby

Published 03/29/23 at 6:50 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

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(Newport, Oregon) – Killer whales are back on the Oregon coast, and these multi-layered set of sightings may just herald a bunch more coming down the way. (Above: orca in Newport with her calf, courtesy Jaklyn Larsen Photography)

And the numbers are growing.

Multiple sightings of them began at least by Monday and now Facebook has been lighting up like a Griswold Christmas tree with extraordinary close still photos and video. It started with five whales and as of Wednesday it's up to 10.

Josh McInnes, Canadian orca researcher who runs the Facebook group Oregon Coast Killer Whale Sightings, thinks it's all a good sign. These somewhat mysterious transient killer always start to show up about now anyway.

“This is the second sighting of transient killer whales for March off the Oregon Coast,” he told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “I suspect we will start to see more sightings as we progress into the April - May harbor seal pupping period off the Oregon coast.”


In Yaquina Bay, courtesy Jaklyn Larsen Photography

All of this started on March 27 with one member of the group posting the time they were spotted and the fact they were at Depoe Bay, heading south. Sure enough, they hit Newport's Yaquina Bay, which resulted in some rather spectacular video.

After that, the reports, videos and closeup stills just poured in. The central Oregon coast was really hoppin'.

It became clear it was five orcas - with a cute little baby orca in tow. McInnes and his various groups, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and his own University of British Columbia, have documented and identified quite a lot of these transient killer whales. As of Wednesday, five more different whales were added to the list, which McInnes had mostly ID'd as of 8 p.m.

“The group of five whales are known as the T068Cs,” McInnes said. “These whales are part of the inner coast West Coast Transient population that specialize in hunting and feeding on marine mammals, in particular harbor seals. The T068s are composed of five whales: matriarch T068C (born in 1992), her first offspring
T068C1 (born in 2001), third offspring T068C3, fourth offspring T068C4 (born. 2014), and her newest offspring T068C5 (born in 2020). The T068Cs were last seen off the Oregon coast near Depoe Bay, Oregon on June 15, 2022.”

The Killer Whale Sightings group is quite the hub of activity, as the five's antics are as public as ever even today (Wednesday).


T068C4, the matriarch. Courtesy Oceanic Ecology Research Group, Pacific Killer Whale Ecology and Behaviour Study

They've been sticking close to Depoe Bay and Newport all this time. The group's page shows lots of sightings around Depoe Bay, Whale Cove, at Rocky Creek Creek State Scenic Viewpoint, and they're spending considerable time inside the mouth of Yaquina Bay

In one case, Depoe Bay's Maritime Charters was on an hour-long run, then soon found themselves zipping a few hundred feet away from the pod as it was racing along a stretch right off town. That's a remarkable video.

Yet most of these encounters are exceptionally close.

Jaklyn Larsen of Jaklyn Larson Photography snagged some of the most incredible images, showing them closely (some of that is zooming in), and displaying lots of details in the whales. The one with the mother and her three-year-old calf is the biggie that makes everyone go “awwwwww.”

Her experience was priceless.

“I was fortunate enough to be on the South Jetty as they were traveling back towards the ocean,” Larsen told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “I was able to watch them for several minutes as I tried to keep pace with them. They stayed relatively close to the jetty, so I was able to get really close looks at them, even without my camera. There were a couple of moments when they surfaced and I could hear their breathing clearly, an unforgettable sound. It was such a privilege to see how they travel together, and how closely they all work to keep watch over the young one.”

See Revelations of Oregon Coast Orcas Are Many

How to see these whales yourself? Wednesday could be their last day here, but then it may not. Since five more were seen today, you're likely in luck. Oregon Coast Beach Connection advises head down to Newport or Depoe Bay now (Hotels in Depoe Bay -- Hotels in Newport ), and then check the Killer Whale Sightings group for updates. Worse comes worst: you've spent a fun day or two on the coast and missed the whales. Not much to lose, in this case. MORE ID'D PHOTOS BELOW

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T068C1. Courtesy Oceanic Ecology Research Group, Pacific Killer Whale Ecology and Behaviour Study


T068C4. Courtesy Oceanic Ecology Research Group, Pacific Killer Whale Ecology and Behaviour Study


T068C3. Courtesy Oceanic Ecology Research Group, Pacific Killer Whale Ecology and Behaviour Study

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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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