Orcas are back in large numbers

Spring sightings have come earlier than usual this year

Whale Watch Center photo
Whale Watch Center photo
Whale Watch Center photo
Whale Watch Center photo

(By the Oregon Coast Beach Connection)  The somewhat mysterious “transient” Killer Whales are back on the central Oregon coast – and the sightings of them have been spectacular so far.

Every year they show up, usually around April, following gray whales as they migrate northward with their young, looking to feed on the newborn whales.

This time around, the sightings came in earlier than usual, and not only in large numbers but in some very dramatic appearances as well.

They were spotted near Newport early on in the month. Other reports came in from different spots along the central Oregon coast, many of larger-than-usual pods of Orcas. The Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay said at least two reports were of a pod of eight, including one where they had separated into groups of four and were apparently trying to corral their prey.

One volunteer at the Whale Watch Center watched a pair of Orcas skirting the edges Depoe Bay in the first week of April, but never quite coming in.

Many of the reports – and even some photographs on Facebook – have the Orcas gunning hard through the waters.

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 kinds of whales are smaller and more shark-like in appearance, hang out in smaller groups, and come here chasing baby whales and seals and sea lions.

Aside from this, not much is known about them. In fact, they are a bit of a mystery.

These Orcas will typically stay for a few weeks, but some years they have lingered here into early summer.

According to the center, if you're going to try and see an Orca, it’s best to shoot for spotting Gray whales first. Take along 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 Watching 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 the Whale Watch Center for more on the Orcas at 541-765-3304.

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