To answer you immediate question: Yes we do see whales in the winter and yes it is cold!
What whales are we likely to see? Well the usual suspects you’d expect to see in summer more or less.
Killer Whales/ Orca
The famous and much loved Killer Whales are swimming around our waters all year around. There are two “ecotypes” of killer whale we see in the Salish Sea…
Transient Orca, are the mammal eating whales that search the shore lines for a possible tasty snack, normally in the shape of a Harbour seal. They travel in small family pods and can show up anywhere, at any time of year. We’ve had lots of encounters with Transients in past winters.
The second ecotype is the Southern resident, these guys eat fish and travel in large family groups. Currently there are 73 whales in this endangered population. However, we are excited to see that 3 of these southern residents are suspected to be pregnant and should give birth sometime next year! The SRKW like to chomp down on Chinook salmon but with dwindling stocks, we’re seeing them less often as they search other parts of the coast for the food they desperately need. We can see them in the winter, too, but their visits are less frequent.
The winter of 2019/2020 was filled to the brim with a group of Humpback whales. They decided not to head back south towards Mexico but stay here and keep filling their bellies! They were just as friendly during the winter as well, the cold weather wasn’t keeping them away. Growing to about 18m long these great angelic animals are always a fantastic sight to behold.
Seals and Sea Lions
These smelly friends of ours stick around for the winter too! At this time of year we see more Elephants seals about as this is their birthing time. Small grey elephant seals will appear at Race Rocks light house in these cold months as the waters near by are perfect to help fatten them up. The California and Steller Sea Lions can also be seen clambering over each other to get the best spot on the rocks.
If there is one thing that everyone raves about when going back home from visiting the west coats its our views and coast lines! Race Rocks, Discovery island, the Chain Islets, Chatham Island and many more to behold.
Onboard Naturalist/Biologist for SpringTide Whale Watching & Eco Tours