Click below to see our most recent encounters.
Encounter # – Date – Pod – Location


2020.12.24


Location: West of Marina
# of killer whales: 5
ID: CA140B (Louise), CA140B1 (Stinger), CA140B2 (Bee), CA140B3 (Buzz), CA23A2

We received a report from our 10AM boat that there were killer whales right inside the bay on Christmas Eve! Our research team jumped on our smaller boat to go out and observe the killer whales. Before we got there, CA140B, Louise, and her family were hunting sea lions. Louise and CA23A2 still seemed to be helping the three young offspring practice hunting sea lions, gearing up for the upcoming gray whale season!

Once we reached the killer whales, we ended up losing them for just over an hour, but we didn’t give up! We eventually found the killer whales again, who had headed most East than we had thought. We continued to observe them traveling and milling as the sun was starting to set, making for some beautiful photos.

This group was the CA140Bs – Louise with her three youngsters, 7-year-old CA140B1 (Stinger), 3-year-old CA140B2 (Little) Bee, and 1-year-old CA140B3 (Buzz). There was another whale in this group, which we identified as CA23A2. This seems to be a relatively new relationship – CA23A2 hanging out with the CA140Bs. CA23A2 may now be orphaned; we have not seen many of her family members for some time. This seems to be a great group for CA23A2 to have joined, being with an experienced older female and also being able to help Louise out with babysitting sometimes!


2020.10.31


Location: West of Point Pinos
# of killer whales: 5
ID: CA140B (Louise), CA140B1 (Stinger), CA140B2 (Bee), CA140B3 (Buzz), CA23A2

We received a report of a killer whale sighting in Carmel Bay from a fishing boat. We headed south from Monterey Harbor to see if we could find them. When we found them around 9:20AM, they were attacking a California sea lion that was feeding on a fish. Killer whales were flying out of water one after another non-stop as if it was the fireworks finale. This group was the CA140Bs – Louise with her three youngsters, 7-year-old CA140B1 (Stinger), 3-year-old CA140B2 (Little) Bee, and 1-year-old CA140B3 (Buzz). There was another whale in this group which we identified as CA23A2.

Seagulls were picking up small bloody pieces out of water. Some looked like a part of a fish which the sea lion was feeding on.  Some could have been a part of the prey.  We saw a large amount of blood on the water which suggested that the prey could have been an elephant seal also. CA140B Louise was breaching many times.  When she was not out of water, her two young ones CA140B2 (Bee) and CA140B3 (Buzz) were closely beside her. All five of them continued to swim together, sometimes in a tight group, often stopping,  changing directions and milling.  CA23A2 often surfaced next to Louise. We saw some blood next to one of the whales.  It looked like they were feeding.  More birds came and joined the feeding.

Soon, they found two more California sea lions. This predation looked like  an obvious training session for the young killer whales. CA140B Louise was teaching her three youngsters how to hunt sea lions. She gave them repeated opportunities to practice their hunting techniques. The young killer whales followed and imitated her – hitting the sea lion with their head and flukes. The youngest Buzz was doing its best to keep up with mom. They attacked from all directions leaping sideways and even back flipping to hit the target.  Sometimes they moved away from the prey, then turned around and circled the prey in a coordinated manner. By 11:30AM, two humpbacks came and surfaced abruptly with trumpet blows right next to the killer whales and sea lions. They were chasing the killer whales away from the sea lions. Our drone captured the footage of a humpback lifting a sea lion on its back at some point. The humpback whales were identified as HW-MN0501296 and CRC-10759 (Pepper’s mom a.k.a. Venus) by Ted Cheeamns, co-found of Happywhale.  HW-MN0501296 had killer whale rake marks on its fluke which suggested that he/she was a survivor of severe killer whale attack. We have a joint publication on Humpbacks interfering with killer whales stopping them from hunting and feeding on prey, and we often observe this interaction. Those humpback whales did stop the killer whales from continuing the attack on the sea lion for at least 30 minutes, then the humpbacks left, Eventually the killer whales came back to finish the predation. To view the extended version of the drone footage of this encounter,  click here.


2020.10.17


Location: Soquel Canyon area
# of killer whales: 5
ID: CA202 “Smiley”, CA202A, CA202B, CA202C, CA50B

We arrived at the scene around 1050, and encountered the matriarch CA202 “Smiley” traveling with her offspring and the adult male CA50B; we stayed with them for about one hour and 40 minutes.  They were elusive, surfacing in different locations.  There were several other boats in the area, which helped keep track of them. Juvenile male CA202A often surfaced next to CA50B. Smiley’s youngest kids, CA202B and CA202C, stayed very close to their Mom  – sometimes bumping their bodies against her.

Around 1240, they started to porpoise. CA202 Smiley leaped out of the water and landed on a California sea lion – starting their attack on their prey. The main attackers were CA202, CA202A, and CA50B, coming at the sea lion from different directions. The whole group briefly swam away from the sea lion, then turned around, came back, and circled their prey. This time, the youngest whales followed their mother around while she attacked the sea lion.

By 1246, they started to swim away. CA202A popped up right next to the boat. The other whales continued swimming away – some tail slapping, often changing directions. The water was very calm and clear, so that we were able to watch them rolling and swimming upside down underwater. At 1256, we spotted a blood pool on the water’s surface. More gulls approached the scene, as well as one black-footed albatross; they started to pick up bloody pieces of what appeared to be the parts of the prey. We could not be certain if this was the sea lion that they had killed earlier, or if they had just killed another sea lion. By this time, we were close to Davenport; we left the scene around 1330.


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