Photo courtesy Steveston Seabreeze
A seal leapt onto the stern of a Steveston Seabreeze boat on Saturday in an apparent bid for
survival, much to the surprise of naturalist Sheldon Desroches.
“We were out in the open water in the Strait of Georgia, just outside the entrance to Horseshoe Bay. There was a large male orca, two adult females and a young one. The adult seal was in the water about 50 feet away from us. We could see the orcas circling it and getting into a bit of frenzy. They got organised. They use echo location. They hunt with it.”
Suddenly the seal leapt into the area adjacent to their boat’s outboard motors, where it stayed virtually motionless.
“It didn’t move much on the boat. It looked scared and looked at us. We tried to give it some space.”
Meanwhile the orcas didn’t give up, circling their boat and diving underneath a couple of times.
“Eventually they moved off after realizing they couldn’t get the seal on our boat. After they moved off, we let the seal stay on our boat for another few minutes,” he says.
Desroches says that transient, meat-eating orcas tend to eat about three seals a day.
He advises if you see a seal being hunted by orcas, “just keep your distance and let nature play its course. In other places, (orca) have been known to bump boats if something jumps onto it.”
As for seals: “For sure, don’t pet them. This seal, once we waited 20 minutes, we had to give it a bit of poke with the boat hook to get it off--it gave the hook a snap with its teeth.”
So while Desroches would never go rescue a seal being hunted by orca, he made an exception in this case.
“With this seal, just because it climbed onto the boat on its own accord, we did try to keep it safe until the orcas were gone. We gave it enough space from the orcas so it could be put back into the water and swim off in the other direction.”
Even as a professional naturalist, Desroches is not immune to the appeal of seals.
“We tend to call them the puppy dogs of the sea with their distinct expressions on their face. I watch them on the rocks, some are laying about, posing and some are grumping.”
That’s why Desroches waited.
“Once we were further away, I wanted to make sure the orcas were out of the way before I pushed it off. He was giving me the puppy dogs eyes before I scooted him off. I still see the expression on it’s face. I’m hoping that it got away.”