Whale & Wildlife Sightings of Telegraph Cove

September 15, 2020

Telegraph Cove is home to numerous marine mammals, fish and sea life! From the moment we leave the dock we could start seeing wildlife.

Wildlife we may get the opportunity to see include:

  • Humpback Whales
  • Killer Whales
  • Dall’s Porpoise
  • Pacific White-Sided Dolphins
  • Stellar Sea Lions
  • Harbour Seals
  • Minke Whales
  • Bald Eagles

 

Humpback Whales

Humpback whales migrate to BC’s coast to feed on juvenile herring for the summer months. They start to arrive mid-May and will stay here to feed into late October, before heading out on their long migration south. This migration is the longest of any mammal and is around 10,000 km round trip. The entire time they are on this long journey in addition to the time they spend overwintering in warmer waters they are not eating anything! When they return to our waters in late spring they are extremely hungry as they have lost around 40 percent of their body weight! If we’re lucky we may get to see them feeding at the surface! Humpback Whales in our area utilize a series of feeding techniques to acquire their food. One of the most commonly used strategies is a lunge feed, where the whale lunges its 40 ton body out of the water to collect a ball of herring. However, these whales have adapted a new feeding strategy to use when the herring are more dispersed. This technique is called trap feeding, named after the venus fly trap, where herring gather in the shadow of the Humpback’s open mouth to avoid becoming prey to nearby diving birds. It is an incredible event to witness!

They start to return mid-May and will stay here feeding into late October before heading out on their long migration.

 

Northern Resident Killer Whales

The Northern Resident Killer Whales frequent the waters around the Johnstone Strait and Blackish Sound from mid-July to about mid-September to forage. This whale ‘ecotype’ specialize on Pacific salmon, and will follow the fish as they return to their native rivers to spawn. This population of orca is made up of approximately 310 individuals. These whales are divided between A, G and R Clans and the majority of the whales we see here are part of the A Clan. Approximately 13 pods of the population frequently use the Johnstone Strait in the summer months. Their diet consists exclusively of fish and around 80% of it is Chinook Salmon. The whales range extends between Campbell River and Prince Rupert. Orca societies are matrilineal which means the oldest female is in charge. We get to know these families and whales as individuals based on distinctive nicks, marks and scratches along their dorsal fins and saddle patches.

These killer whales frequent the waters around the Johnstone Strait and Blackish Sound from mid-July to about mid-September.

These whales rely heavily on sound, so while we’re out on the water we will often drop a down hydrophone. This device is used to pick up underwater sound waves and gives us the privilege of catching a glimpse of their acoustic world. Dr. John Ford was the first researcher to learn that orca pods each possess an exclusive call. It is thought that these calls are learned behaviours, passed down from whale to whale. These calls are especially important, as they can be used to distinguish individuals from one another. These sounds come from a structure within the blowhole and are emitted from the front of their skulls through a fatty organ called the melon. It is an incredible experience to both see and hear the complex social behaviours of these animals.

 

Other Wildlife

During the tours we also may get the opportunity to observe Dall’s Porpoise speeding through out waters. They are the fastest marine mammal we have in our area and they can get up to speeds close to 60 km per hour. They are the largest of the porpoise species and are still only around 2m long. Dall’s porpoise are also sometimes observed swimming with Pacific White Sided Dolphins. These dolphins travel in groups from 10-200 and feed on over 13 different species in BC. Porpoise and Dolphins are often confused with one another but they are their own species, more different than lions are to tigers!

Dall’s porpoise are the fastest marine mammal in our area and can get up to speeds of 60 km per hour.

We also get the chance to see Steller Sea Lions and Harbour Seals. These species belong to the Pinniped family which means “feather footed” due to their flippers. Steller Sea Lions are the largest of all the Sea Lion species and can be as large as grizzly bears! If we pass by a group of them hauled out on the rocks we will get to hear the low roaring sounds they make. Sea Lions feed on numerous fish species and use their whiskers to detect prey and navigate underwater. There are often Harbour Seals hauled out on rocky shores around the islands and waterways that we explore during our trips. Harbour seals have large eyes to help them see underwater, and can dive down to depths of 300m – their hearing is 14 times better underwater than it is above the surface!

Steller Sea Lions are the largest of all the Sea Lion species and can be as large as grizzly bears!

 

Getting to go out on the water and explore the magnificent scenery and wildlife that the Johnstone Strait has to offer can transform any ordinary day into a spectacular one!!

 

 

Written By: Rebecca Scott

 

Check out more epic wildlife photography from Telegraph Cove