Story from Whale Watch Center, Depoe Bay
(Newport, Oregon) – The somewhat mysterious “transient” Killer Whales are back on the central Oregon coast.
Every year they show up, usually around April, following gray whales as they migrate northward with their young. The Orcas feed on their newborns.
Renee Fowler, with the Whale Spoken Here program, said the Orcas began showing up in mid March.
“We’ve already had numerous sightings of transient Orcas,” Fowler said. “Seven Orcas were spotted off Pacific City on March 16. Seven Orcas were spotted off of Cape Perpetua on March 22 and 23. Four were spotted off of Pacific City on March 28, and seven were spotted off Boiler Bay hunting a couple of sea lions during the evening of March 29th.”
Once they arrive, they tend to linger around the central coast from Yachats north to Cascade Head by Lincoln City.
They also have a habit of creating some wild, intense drama.
One spring in the early 2000’s, a killer whale was seen chasing a seal past Newport’s Yaquina Bay and quite a ways into the Yaquina River.
Last year, some incredible photos appeared of them literally gunning for prey at high speed near Yachats. Other reports from the Depoe Bay Whale Watch Center had them corralling prey in groups within sight of the center.
This group of Orcas is not like the so-called “friendly” Killer Whales, which come from here from the San Juan Islands and live on salmon. These Orcas are smaller and more shark-like in appearance, hang out in smaller groups, and they come here chasing baby whales and seals and sea lions.
These Orcas will typically stay for a few weeks, but some years they have lingered into early summer.
According to the center, if you want to see an Orca, it’s best to scan the horizon for Gray whales first. Pack a lot of patience and get to a high vantage point. In the Newport area these include the lighthouse at Yaquina Bay, Don Davis Memorial Park in Nye Beach, the Yaquina Head area, and nearby at Cape Foulweather. The headquarters for the Whale Watch Spoken Here program is in Depoe Bay, at the seawall, and another good spot for seeing them as well.
Numerous whale watch tours operate out of both Newport and Depoe Bay, greatly increasing your odds of seeing them.
Your chances of spotting any whale are much greater on days with less turbulent waves. Call Beverly Beach State Park for more information at (541) 265-4560, as the Whale Watch Center is currently closed for renovations.