Yesterday, the SV Maple Leaf and her guests saw something few people get to see: a family of transient killer whales hunting sea lions in the Gulf Islands National Park. Here’s a photo texted from the SV Maple Leaf by Capt. James Warburton yesterday as the hunt was on.

One of the transient killer whales involved in the hunt of this sea lion (the brown animal on the right) spy hops to have a look around above water. Photo by James Warburton / Maple Leaf Adventures, April 9, 2013.

Although we don’t promote the possibility of doing orca whale watching on our Gulf Islands, BC, trips, it can happen.

It’s April and the circle of life is fully flowing. Herring have been spawning, sea lions and seals gorge on them, and the transient killer whales are here to hunt the sea lions and seals.

Right now there are a lot of families of transient killer whales in the Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, Puget Sound area. Guests on our previous trip saw mating behaviour between several transient killer whales, as well.

For those who don’t know, transient killer whales are mammal-eating orcas. They hunt sea lions, seals, porpoises and dolphins, and other, small whales. Because they hunt very intelligent prey, they tend to live in small family groups and move in more unpredictable patterns than their fish-eating relations.

The fish-eating killer whales here are called residents, and they tend to travel in larger family groups.

Seeing transient killer whales hunt an 800-pound sea lion is akin to watching lions take down a wildebeest in Africa. It’s stunning. Coordination, communication, planning and physical prowess are all required of the hunters.

For more information on these Maple Leaf Adventures trips, visit our Gulf Islands National Park Reserve trip page.