WATCH: A sneaky seal jumps on a boat to escape a pod of transient killer whales trying to hunt him near Powell River. Tess van Straaten reports.
It’s not every day you see a seal sunning himself on the swim deck of a boat.
But what led the seal to seek refuge here is even more spectacular.
A pod of about 12 transient killer whales were hunting the seal near Powell River on Monday, tossing it around and dragging it underwater.
Nick Templeman recorded the unforgettable encounter, capturing amazing whale vocalizations — unusual for transients who passive acoustic hunters — and these incredible underwater shots.
“It was absolutely breathtaking,” says Templeman, who runs Campbell River Whale and Bear Excursions. “There were only four of us on the boat but it was just amazing. You almost couldn’t breath at some points.”
To escape, this desperate seal out smarted the whales and jumped on the boat.
“Basically the seal is swimming for its life and anything it can do to escape the very efficient predators that transient killer whales are, they will take any opportunity they can,” explains marine biologist Anna Hall.
But the orcas didn’t give up, spending the next half an hour coming up to the boat and trying to find the sneaky seal.
Experts say seals jumping on boats is rare, but it has happened before.
Last August, a seal being hunted by two pods of mammal-hunting killer whales went in this small zodiak near Campbell River.
“The seal was staring at us all really bug eyed,” said UVic researcher Josh McInnes, who witnessed the incident.
In 2012, a terrified seal trying to escape five hungry whales jumped into a boat in Nanoose Bay.
Seal population at historic levels in Salish Sea
We’re seeing a record number of transient killer whales in the Salish Sea and experts say it’s likely due to the booming seal population, which is now at historic levels.
“Where you get high levels of prey you tend to get high levels of predators so we think that’s why the transients are coming in,” Hall says.
In this case, the whales had no choice but to swim away and find something else for dinner.