Orcas Fight Mommy Gray Whale, Drown and Devour Baby in Monterey Bay

Orcas Fight Mommy Gray Whale, Drown and Devour Baby in Monterey Bay

Tragedy struck in nature’s path on Monterey Bay last week, when a pack of 20 orcas — also known as the killer whale — attacked a mother gray whale and its calf, according to 

After a series of prolonged assaults, which lasted for more than two hours, the assailants pried the baby whale from its mother’s back, drowned it, and took turns feeding off of its carcass.

Over the past year, Monterey Bay has become the richest marine region on the Pacific Ocean. The past three weeks in particular have given way to a new peak, with groundbreaking hordes of anchovies — along with other baitfish — which brought with it the highest numbers of salmon, marine boards, sea lions, gray whales, humpback whales, and orcas anywhere.

But it was just one week ago, on Monday, that the humpbacks and killer whales arrived. “They came in waves, like attacking swarms of hockey players,” said field scout Bart Selby, who witnessed and photographed the attack.

Selby said the “mother fought valiantly,” as he described the difficult scene: “The calf tried to stay on the back of her mom, hooking her tail over mom’s spine, tucking in her flipper so the orcas could not grab them, and even draping her body on top of mom… Mom fought and fought. We could just see the baby on top of her, often out of the water. The orcas tried to swim between them and dove under and rushed to the surface, pummeling her from below.”

All the while, the orcas put on a show in which they reportedly breached and tail slapped. “It was like they were celebrating their victory,” Selby said.

Recently efforts to stop SeaWorld from using killer whales in its American theme parks floundered, with California politicians putting on hold a proposed law to stop the practice. AB 2140, the so-called “Orca Bill,” would make it illegal to “Hold in captivity, or use, a wild-caught or captive-bred orca for performance or entertainment purposes.” The bill, penned by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, was motivated by the award-winning documentary Blackfish, which criticizes the captivity of killer whales. In 2010, SeaWorld Orlando Trainer Dawn Brancheau was brutally killed by orca Tilikum. Tilikum has been involved in three SeaWorld-related deaths to date.

“I’ve been around enough to know that nature is cruel, but it was hard to watch,” Selby said. Sighting killer whales on Monterey Bay is likely through May.