[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Killer whales stalk sea lion


Watch: Killer Whales Stalk Clever Sea Lion
Killer whales make an early surprise visit to the delight of whale watchers.
By Philip Friedman

The fate of a spunky sea lion that used a whale watching boat in an attempt to elude a pod of killer whales Friday remains unknown.

As seen on this video, it started out looking like a Disney story: cute little sea lion is floating right beside the boat, looking tired, prompting audible oohs and ahs.

Equally cute is the pod of orcas, spanning three generations. The matriarch and the others appear to be teaching the youngest members of the pod.

From what has to be the luckiest whale watching vessel on earth--The Christopher out of Harbor Breeze Cruises in Long Beach--Friday's passengers watched seven killer whales swim right up beside the boat, just a few miles off Point Fermin. It was so exciting a sight, someone summoned a whale expert, and she motored over to witness the orca action.

That's when the Disney tale turned into Wild Kingdom.

Known as transient orcas, the seven whales stalked the sea lion as it sought refuge against the charter catamaran's pontoons in front of the group of amazed whale watchers. With a Channel 7 News helicopter hovering above, the killer whales spy-hopped and seemed to be teaching their young to hunt, said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, an American Cetacean Society biologist and researcher who raced out to see what the orcas were up to. She said that this family unit includes a matriarch, her four offspring and two calves (grandkids) that are less than a year old.

The group of lucky whale watchers on the Christopher also saw blue whales on this trip but the excitement was palpable on deck as the orcas stalked their prey just feet from them. It appears that only killer whales could trump the excitement generated by the local blue whale--largest creatures to have ever inhabited the face of the earth.

The Christopher stayed as late as possible but as daylight started to fade, the vessel turned her bow towards Rainbow Harbor and headed for home. The helpless sea lion tried to stay with the vessel but could not. There was a commotion and splashes in the boats wake but ultimately, no one knew for sure what had happened to the small sea lion. We would like here to leave this a cliffhanger, and fade to black.

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