October 1, 2015 3:32 pm

WATCH: Campbell River family surrounded by super pod of dolphins in breathtaking encounter

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A B.C. family got more than it bargained for on their outing in the waters near Campbell River Tuesday night.

Deanna Collins was out kayaking and paddleboarding with her six-year-old daughter, husband and friend in the Ocean Grove area when they saw a pod of what appeared to be hundreds of dolphins coming right at them.

“We heard the roar of the dolphins coming,” says Collins. “It sounded like a motor boat coming by. The water was flat calm, but, in the distance, you could see the waves made by the dolphins coming.”

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Her friend started paddling, whooping and hollering, straight out toward the pod, but Collins held back, trying to make sure her daughter’s little kayak was stable.

Meanwhile, her husband paddled back to shore, grabbed a phone and started shooting.

Collins says many dolphins came really close to them, swimming between them, on the outside and underneath their kayaks and paddle boards.

“It is hard to talk and think when you are so close to them. You can see their shadows and them wheezing right underneath us, just a few feet under,” she says. “They were going as fast as cars shooting by.”

She estimates there could have been hundreds, if not close to a thousand, dolphins that surrounded them during the 10-minute encounter.

Tessa Danelesko with the Marine Mammal Research Program at the Vancouver Aquarium says Pacific white-sided dolphins are often seen travelling in large groups and it is not unusual to see hundreds of them travelling together.

Group sizes can range from ten to a thousand individuals.

The largest recorded group of Pacific white-sided dolphins was estimated to consist of approximately 6,000 animals.

Super pods generally refer to any group over 300 animals.

“It’s difficult to say how many were spotted in the video, but it looks like a typical sighting of a group of energetic Pacific white-sided dolphins travelling together,” says Danelesko.

Dolphins are a highly social and active species, so it makes sense that people would see them travelling in large groups.

They are known to work together to find food, though large groups may separate into smaller sub-groups when doing so.

Danelesko says groups of feeding dolphins have been seen working as a team to herd fish. In the video, they don’t appear to be feeding though, but are just travelling in an active manner.

As exciting as these sightings are, it’s always best to give as much space as possible to any marine animal, adds Danelesko.

“While it may not always be obvious to us, especially considering they spend so much time underwater, these animals spend a lot of time and energy on important natural behaviours such as feeding, socializing, mating and resting. When humans approach marine wildlife closely we can interrupt these behaviours and that can be very costly for them.”

The best thing to do is to maintain a distance of at least a hundred meters from all marine wildlife.

If the animals approach closer than that distance, and they may, especially in the instance of curious or social species like Pacific white-sided dolphins, it’s important to remain calm and move away when safe.

Any sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoises or sea turtles in B.C. waters can be reported to the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network.

Coastal citizens and mariners can report sightings via the WhaleReport smartphone app available for iPhones and Android devices, calling 1.866.I.SAW.ONE, visiting www.wildwhales.org, or emailing sightings@vanaqua.org.

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