An Amazing Brutal Encounter with ETPs – 9/1/24

It started with a tail slap.

Just a few dozen feet off of Crystal Cove we witnessed one of the most incredible, and brutal things I have ever seen. Eastern Tropical Pacific Killer Whales are known to munch dolphins much like we would potato chips, and that holds true for the other times I’ve seen them eating dolphins (they caught a few after preying on the Gray Whale calf the week prior, and they caught some later on the 9th). If I had to guess, this particular predation was probably so brutal due to the shallow water the Kdubs had to contend with, but whatever the case I was overtaken by emotion when at one point the dolphin sat vertical in the water and cried out, though we can see here… there was no escape for it!

I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten to experience this with @wishiwashyi and other whale watchers. It definitely was a moment of a lot self-reflection too, as a dolphin scientist I was so torn seeing one of my study species get devoured like this! ❤️

I tell people that “my research is concerned with that moment when you’re looking down at the animals, and they’re looking right back” – well, my encounter yesterday had me utterly BAWLING when this Eastern Tropical Pacific Killer Whale calf got all playful with the adults and me while I filmed them at the bow of the zodiac I was on.

What utterly shook me though was the way the adult turned to look at me too… making eye contact with the ocean’s most magnificent predator! It is a feeling I’ll never forget and I’ll be replaying this experience in my mind and through this reel for a long time. I feel incredibly blessed to have gotten to experience this! ????

The world’s most incredible predator, the Killer Whale, is also a tender species that has incredibly tight-knit familial bonds that we cannot really comprehend. In the same way that humans are pattern-seeking, mathematical creatures, the Kdub’s brain is made for socialization, relationships, and complex bonds.

When @wishiwashyi and I spent a few hours with the ETPs (Eastern Tropical Pacific Killer Whale) on Tuesday we got to see just a peek into their family lives, including hunting and feeding together but also genuine play with their small calves. Shown here (to the best of my ID skills) are ETP17 Top Notch and her calf ETP20 Cookie as well as ETP22 Ana and her calf ETP23 Navi also pictured is ETP15 Baja Nicki and other members of her group.

It was absolutely amazing to get to spend time with these amazing animals, including witnessing the most brutal predation I’ve seen yet.❤️??


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