Hot Springs Cove! Hot Springs Cove lies 26 nautical miles up the coast from Tofino at Maquinna Provincial Park. For thousands of years, natural thermal hot springs have poured out of the rocks and spilled out on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Northern Clayoquot Sound.Read More
TOFINO WHALE WATCHING BLOG
We had the Southern Resident Killer Whales K Pod on all our Whale Watching Tours yesterday! I manifested orcas the night before because I knew we had guests on board who really, really wanted to see Killer Whales. The whales were picked up coming down the coast near Hot Springs Cove and we were able to see them off Cleland Island. John and I knew they were SRKW but we were not sure which pod they were. We don't see these whales very often! We were able to get some photo identification shots with our permit. The killer whales were last seen traveling down the coast, likely back to the Salish Sea!
Afterwards we sent the photos to Ken Balcomb at the Centre for Whale Research in Washington state. He confirmed they were K Pod! With only 18 members, K Pod is the smallest of the three pods in the Southern Resident Killer Whale community. The oldest female in K pod is K12, estimated to have been born in 1972. K pod has three mature males, K21, and K26, and K25. The most recent calf born into K pod is K44 (male, born 2011), the first known calf of K27.
As with most marine mammals, their movements are determined by their food source. For the Southern Residents, this means following the salmon returning to the Fraser River in British Columbia every summer. In the winter, when Chinook salmon are less abundant, they must expand their range to find food.
SRKW Status: Endangered. Designated endangered in Canada in 2001, USA in 2005.
Please note that when we are photographing killer whales with our permit we do not have paying guests on board and we send our photo IDs to DFO, Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society and the Center for Whale Research.
Coastal Wolves move like ghosts along the shorelines. One of the shyest and most elusive creatures on Vancouver Island. Living in packs from five to twenty, the wolves usually stay away from human activity. Individual wolves in a pack play different roles in relation to the others in the group. The parent wolves are the leaders of the pack - the alpha male and alpha female. The alpha male and female are the oldest members of the pack and the ones with the most experience in hunting, defending territory, and other important activities.
The other pack members respect their positions and follow their leadership in almost all things, The alpha wolves are usually the ones to make decisions for the pack when the group should go out to hunt or move from one place to another. Vancouver Island’s wolves are a variety of grey wolf, Canis lupus, known as coastal wolves or sea wolves. Smaller than most grey wolves (though a large male may still weigh 40 kilograms, about the size of an Alaskan malamute), they have shorter, coarser coats that often have reddish or golden tones as well as shades of white, black and grey. As a wide ranging top predator, habitat destruction is the primary threat to these wild animals. We rarely see these wolves foraging alone the shoreline for chiton and other seafood that may wash up. The wolves have a unique relationship with the coastal First Nations peoples, for whom the wolf is considered as a revered animal treated with admiration and respect. Historically, the Nuu-chah-nulth have had a strong ceremonial culture, characterised by feasting and entertainment with song, dance, contests and potlatches. The Wolf Ritual, which took place in the winter, was a particularly elaborate celebration of a general secret society that aimed to teach people about heroism, life and death, and the teachings of the elders. The estimated 250 wolves on Vancouver Island are not protected.
We do not see wolves often on our tours but when we do it is a gift.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Steven
On Sunday morning John and I heard reports on the radio of a large group of killer whales off Lennard Light. We jumped into the boat and headed out off the Glory Hole to meet up with the fleet and the whales. We knew this large group of killer whales were not Transient Killer Whales but likely Northern Resident Killer Whales. The last time we had Northern Residents in Tofino on a whale watching tour was the H5's in August 2014. We spent some time photographing them. Our Tofino Whale Watching Tours and our Hot Springs Tour were able get some good looks at these killer whales as they made their way up the coast past Tofino. The NRKW we saw yesterday day were the A12 Matriline (A34's) and this was a first meeting for us since we have been document killer whale sightings in our area! They were moving slowly (3.6 knots) up the coast. We observed them tail slapping, spy hopping and traveling. They are a beautiful family of whales to watch.
Northern Resident killer whales generally travel in large pods of closely-related individuals within predictable ranges and exclusively feed on fish, primarily salmonid species. The Northern Resident population roam the waters off northern Vancouver Island and the mainland coast as far north as southeast Alaska.
This week Whale Watching in Tofino has been absolutely amazing! We have had several orca sightings on our whale watching tours, humpback whales off Long Beach and lots of Grey Whales, even today we had a mother and calf spy hopping at Tonquin Beach.
On Friday, May 25th we were notified that Hot Springs Tour Boat Guides spotted a deceased black bear sow in Ross Pass. They reported that there was a cub with the black bear's body. John, Michelle from Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society and myself jumped into the Eco and headed up to have a look. We arrived in Ross Pass around 5:00 PM and saw a Black Bear laying on a cliff not moving and a tiny cub laying on the mother black bear. We anchored the boat and John headed up to have a look. The black bear was laying on the ground with no visible trauma or wounds. You could see that the cub had been breastfeeding on the mother after she had died. John looked for the cub and it was hiding in a hole beneath him. He tied to pick it up but it was spooked and climbed a tree. We got back in the boat and moved off to see if it would come down. It did. We tried again to get the orphaned cub but it went back up another tree. We were going to loose light and made the hard decision to come back in the morning. We were all worried that predators would take the cub in the night.
John and I woke up at 5:30 am. We launched the Lil Salty and headed up to Ross Pass. When we arrived on scene I told John that I would put the boat up to the island and he should jump off and quietly creep up to the cub. If it was still there. Within minutes we could see the cub moving and laying on its dead mother. John quietly walked up to the mother's body to pick up the cub. It saw him and moved into the hole. He patiently waited for it to come back out to lay on its mother. It did and he was able to pick it up and carry it back to the boat. It was screaming. My heart was breaking listening to its screams but I knew this was its only chance to survive.
The cub was distressed and looked thirsty. John fed the cub some water and checked it over. The cub was so adorable! We brought a pet crate to transport the cub back to Tofino. John put towels over it to keep it dark and it was quiet on the boat ride back. We took the cub back to our house and called the conservation office and the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. Plans were made for us to meet a conservation officer in Port Alberni so he could transport the cub to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.
We have had updates that the cub is doing well, feeding and being checked by a vet. We hope to adopt the cub and help pay for her expenses while she is in the centre. Eventually she will be released back here when she is ready to be on her own in the wild. We are elated that we could help make a difference. We make our living off of Bear Watching in Tofino so we will always give back to the bears.
Thanks for all your kind words and support. We never think twice about jumping in the boat to help both wildlife and humans whenever we can.
If you want to donate money to help the cub while it is at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre please reach out to them! We will also be donating to help fund the cub's recovery at the centre until it can be released back into the wild.
On Thursday, March 29th we got word that there was a group of Transient Killer Whales off Lennard Lighthouse near Tofino. Our afternoon Whale Watching Tour was able to get some good looks at about 8 killer whales. John and I decided to head out on the Eco to get some photos ID's to see who they were. When we arrived on scene we immediately recognized the T068's with about 6 other killer whales.
The T068's have been in the news recently for being documented for the first time drowning and killing an infant of the same species. The researchers who watched the orca infanticide as it unfolded off the northeastern coast of Vancouver Island on Dec. 2, 2016, published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports this week.
When we arrived the whales were milling in the same spot for the 60 minutes that we spent with them. They were tail slapping and spy hopping. One whale swam by the boat with seal meat hanging out of its mouth. John and I were able to get several good ID shots of these gangs. When we left the whales they were still in the same spot just milling about.
After going through our photos we did not recognize these whales. We reached out to Jared Towers, a researcher from Fisheries and Oceans who identified this gang as the U073's. This group has never been properly photographed. We were pretty excited to have had the opportunity to spend time with a new (to us) group of whales and were able to get some good photo ID's of them.