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KILLER WHALES HUNTING NEAR THE CHANNEL ISLANDS

Killer Whales, or Orcas, are the world’s largest dolphins.  Members of the suborder Odontoceti, the toothed whales, Killer Whales are predatory and hunt a wide variety of prey throughout their vast range.  Although found in every ocean in the world, Killer Whales are more numerous in the cooler waters of higher latitudes.  Highly gregarious, Killer Whales live and hunt in groups called pods.  Resident pods, often found in the Northeast Pacific, prey primarily upon fish, while transient pods specialize in marine mammals.


Transient Killer Whale pods can be seen from time to time in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of Southern California.  In the following sequence of photos, a pod of Killer Whales ambushes an unsuspecting California Sea Lion, and disables it before killing it.  To avoid injury, Killer Whales often disable their prey by head-butting it, slapping it with their tails, or breaching and landing on it.


An unsuspecting California Sea Lion
The attack begins


Members of the pod cooperate to ram the sea lion
The sea lion is injured and disabled by the attack


The attack continues
The pod continues to disable the sea lion

After effectively disabling the sea lion, a pod member delivers a fatal bite
The hunt is successful

The whales proudly display their success
Not all hunts are without injury, as evidenced by the numerous scars

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The Havasi Wilderness Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to heightening awareness and appreciation of the natural environment.

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