Swimming with the sea wolves today as we joined with Cheryl’s family pod who successfully hunted a large squid and reflected why the Orca are often called the wolves of the sea. A beautiful morning greeted us as we departed Bremer Bay and made our way out towards The Patch and were welcomed by a cloud of Shearwaters and Wandering Albatross. Alki and her family surfaced first as they greeted us good morning while little Gracie raced over with much excitement as she wiggled her way around the bow. The seabirds continued to gather momentum as they skimmed the surface just above a young Orca called Fanscar who was in the middle of an extremely large oil slick which carried a distinctive fishy scent. Surfacing with a large chunk of squid we could see that the family pod had been successful in completing a squid hunt this morning.
Travelling with Orca is a fascinating insight into the mind of an apex predator and how they work together to secure each meal they find. A great comparison to one of the ways Orca hunt is the brilliant Gray Wolf packs and their superb tracking abilities. Although we do not observe Orca being possessive or protective of territories the way Gray Wolves are the Orca do establish a foraging range that can cover many hundreds of kilometres for the offshore populations. Part of creating this range is to build knowledge of the area as the seasons change and learn the best locations to find food at different times of the year. The knowledge gained is past down through the generations from one matriarch to the next and practiced on a daily basis creating phenomenal hunters. Tracking is a big part of the way Orca forage just like Gray Wolves and both species use the tactic of travelling over trails or pathways they have ventured on previously.
During our time travelling with the Orca we see them using these trails on a daily basis which increases the likelihood of finding prey. Once prey is located the Orca will also mimic the Gray Wolves by pursuing their prey over many kilometres if necessary. The chase is a way of wearing down and weakening the individual to a point that allows a safer approach by the Orca as the prey is tired and not able to defend themselves with as much vigour as prior to the chase. Today the Orca feasted on squid as big boys B-Slice and Giovanni came over along with the whole family pod as they surrounded us and socialised playfully. Full bellies often lead to very happy Orca and today they stretched out and enjoyed themselves as we were welcomed into the family pod and enjoyed swimming with the sea wolves.