Visitors to Vancouver‘s False Creek were treated to a rare sight Wednesday, when a pod of orcas swam into the city’s most inner waterway.
People walking along the city’s sea wall spotted the killer whales shortly before 3 p.m. near Stamps Landing and the Cambie Street Bridge.
Staff with Vancouver’s Aquabus ferry said there appeared to be at least four animals in the pod.
The Vancouver Aquarium said its research team had confirmed the pod was transient (also known as Bigg’s) killer whales who were likely hunting seals. The large male with the pod was identified as orca T124C.
The aquarium said this is the first reported sighting of killer whales in False Creek since it began collecting data in 2000. A grey whale and common dolphins have been reported in the area in recent years, it said.
Transient killer whales eat seals and sea lions, and while they remain vulnerable, they are faring much better than their critically endangered southern resident orca cousins, who only eat Chinook salmon.
Compared to the southern residents, who now number just 74, Ocean Wise estimates there are about 304 inner coast transients and 217 outer coast transients for more than 500 living in the region.
Transient orcas have been making repeated appearances in Vancouver in recent months, with several sightings in the inner harbour and Indian Arm.
Jessica Torode of the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network said seeing orcas in False Creek is a rare sight to behold.
“Normally we might see them out near Point Grey, sometimes in Burrard Inlet or Howe Sound,” she said, adding they were likely looking for food.
“Likely they were there looking for harbour seals,” Torode said. “We have quite a healthy seal population in Vancouver, and it is pupping season right now.”
The whales continued their swim through the area well into the evening hours.
—With files from Sean Boynton