“Dinner time!” Mama Orca rumbles sub sonically through the bay.
“Mmmm! I wonder what’s for dinner today?” asks little Bobby Orca with baited anticipation.
“I hope it’s squid!” exclaims little Suzy Orca.
“I think it’s going to be harbor seal.” Bobby nods authoritatively, blasting a spray of vapor out his blowhole.
“Mom! Bobby says we’re going to have seal…AGAIN!” tattles little Suzy.
“Come and get it! It’s a seal!” hollers Mama.
Little Suzy stops complaining and lines up with little Bobby and Papa, as well as Aunt Ora, Uncle Othello, and cousins Augustus and Orville.
They don’t dive into a prepared meal. They haven’t even killed their meal yet. But mama has already “picked” her dinner from the great supermarket of the ocean, a lone unfortunate seal that strayed too far from his neighborhood into the lonely part of the bay. He shouldn’t have done that. If he was being stalked by one killer whale, the odds of survival might be higher. Against an entire pod of killer whales, the seal doesn’t stand a chance. That’s because killer whales, orcas, are organized and strategic. Their brute strength is combined with the planning power of an enormous brain.
Led by the matriarch, the pod proceeds in unison. Each member carries its own task responsibly so that the strength of the family is greater than the sum of its parts. The tradition is passed on from parent to child, and millions of years of hunting culture have accrued to a science. A seal must sense terrible finality when it comprehends it is the subject of the hunt.
The whale watchers of this group are very fortunate, but it’s understandable that some may feel sympathy for the poor seal, another intelligent mammal with a social group and behaviors we can identify with. The seal has soft brown eyes, big eyelashes, and sometimes we see them perform tricks at shows just for our pleasure. The seal on dry land will bob its head up and down, appealing for a tossed fish from a friendly human. Here, there is nothing anyone can do but watch. Might as well turn on the camera and capture the savage spectacle!
The whales are probably used to whale watch boats by now and have no fear of the strange ritual of the two-leggers on board. They aren’t part of millions of years of the regular hunting pattern. To survive the frigid sub-arctic water, whales need blubber in their diet. Squid and fish are nice for the occasional snack, but their continued survival is dialed in to other mammals with thick layers of fat. The killer whale can weigh between 8,000 and 12,000 pounds.
That’s pretty huge. In fact, there isn’t another creature on earth, certainly not on land, but also in the sea, that is a threat to the killer whale. They are the apex of all apex predators. Humans can be dangerous to the killer whale, of course, but even humans aren’t prone to specifically targeting killer whales. The one thing in the world the killer whale has to fear is not finding food.
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