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Environment

Mammal-eating Orcas visit the Oregon coast

3 members of the T049A matrilineal group -- T049A (front whale), the whale is her newest calf T049A6 (born 2022), and her fourth calf T049A4 (born 2014) is behind her.jpg
Marine Mammal Institute
/
Oregon State University
3 members of the T049A matrilineal group -- T049A (front whale), the whale is her newest calf T049A6 (born 2022), and her fourth calf T049A4 (born 2014) is behind her in Yaquina Bay, Newport.

There’s been a lot of buzz about a group of Orca whales spotted off the Oregon coast this week. An expert on the predators says they are regular visitors, though sometimes hard to spot.

Bob Pitman is a marine ecologist with Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. He says the Orcas feed on seals and sea lions in Yaquina Bay and other bays up and down the coast. He says Orcas are highly social animals that travel in matri-lines—the oldest female leads the way.

“These are family groups,” he said. “They live together for decades. They hunt together for 30, 40, 50 years. So they learn how to tackle pretty much any kind of prey that they come across. And they share everything that they catch.”

Pitman says Orcas tend to be sly so they aren’t always easy to spot. The mammal eating killer whales are a healthier population than their fish-eating cousins, who compete for the same food humans do.

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