We are so fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and so lucky to be able to experience all of the diverse animals and birds that this coast has to offer. Nature gives us quite a show, especially in the early mornings and evenings with a wide variety of life, including everything from beautiful eagles to vultures to hummingbirds decorating the skies, to deer prancing through our yards and black bear sauntering down the road, to beaver swimming in the ponds and sealions barking about their delicious catch. One of the most magical and awe inspiring creatures that we often hear about but so very rarely see is the great Killer Whale.
Although very illusive, Fanny Bay residents often get a show as Killer Whales swim through Baynes Sound and the Strait of Georgia fishing and playing. Quite often they can been seen from Union Bay, Ships Point, Deep Bay and Bowser, usually swimming in small groups and foraging up and down the coast.
Killer Whales, as they are called, are actually not whales at all! They are the largest species of dolphin, with males weighing up to 10,000kg and measuring out at 10 meters long! Although they are called “Killer” Whales and they eat other animals such as fish, squid, seals, sea lions and sharks, an attack on a human has never been recorded in history.
These large mammals do have quite an appetite though, and they can consume up to 227kg in one day and they live for 60 years or more. That works out to just under 5 million kilograms of food in an average Killer Whales’ lifetime. A Boeing 747 weighs about 200,000kg, so imagine a Killer Whale eating the equivalent of 25 Boeing 747 Airplanes worth of food in its lifetime!
These magnificent creatures are also known as Orcas, and when they swim together they make a variety of noises including chirps, whistles, chatters and clicks. They can make the clicking noise with their mouths extremely fast and it has been documented at a rate up to 5000 clicks per second.
The tones and whistles that Orcas make range between 0.1 kHz and 40 kHz. 20 kHz and higher is considered ultrasonic, meaning vibrations of sound at frequencies greater than the highest audible range for humans. For reference, the human ear hears between 20 and 20,000 Hz which is 20 kHz. During a conversation, the frequency of a typical adult male ranges from 80 to 180 Hz and that of a typical adult woman from 165 to 255 Hz.
Orcas are widely dispersed around the world, living in every ocean. They are actually the third most wide spread animal in the world next to only humans and the brown rat. There are several different varieties of Orca based on location and genetics, but the most common types are Transient Orcas and the Resident Orcas. You can tell the difference very easily as the Transient Orcas have straight and pointed dorsal fins while Resident Orcas have rounded tips on their dorsal fins. In Fanny Bay and along our inner coast from mid Vancouver Island to Alaska, you will most likely see the Resident Orcas as Transient Orcas are in the deeper waters.
And just in time for a Happy Mother’s Day fact: young Orcas tend to stay with their mothers for their entire lives. They do not leave their side and travel together in a pod. For male orcas over the age of 30, after the loss of their mother, their likelihood of death multiplies by eight. The mothers help sons with foraging and offer protection in the event of encounters with other males. Because of this close bond, the mother’s genes are protected as she helps her young to survive.
Now you know all about these amazing creatures, so next time that you hear about a Killer Whale pod travelling through our area, you will know that they are with their family of large dolphins, eating LOTS of fresh fish and seals and communicating with all kinds of sounds that we are incapable of hearing! Nature is so awesome!
By Angela Hicke – Van Isle Wild
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