Killer whale season in the Monterey Bay

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With the arrival of spring comes the arrival of the killer whales to Monterey Bay. An attack last week on a gray whale calf by a group of 17 killer whales signified the beginning of “killer whale season” to many observers.

The killer whales (also known as orcas) found in this area patrol long stretches of coastline looking for their prey, which include seals, dolphins, and, when they can get them, gray whale calves.

Those gray whale calves are really what drives the seasonal abundance of killer whales, according to Nancy Black, a marine biologist with Monterey Bay Whale Watch. Gray whales migrate from their winter homes in Mexico back to their summer feeding grounds in Alaska, and their path along the California coast takes them right through Monterey Bay.

For adult gray whales, the deep water of Monterey Bay doesn’t pose a problem. But mothers and calves need the shelter of shallower water to avoid being vulnerable to attack.

One such attack happened sometime during the night before or early morning of April 5 — a group of killer whales separated a baby gray whale from its larger, more dangerous mother, and successfully killed it. After a whale watching boat discovered the carcass of a baby gray whale surrounded by feeding killer whales that morning, they marked the beginning of this year’s bloody season.

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