The Horde In Our Back Yard

Remember Marlon Perkins' "Wild Kingdom"? We've got something like that on our doorstep only it's not hyenas or lions on the hunt. It's something far bigger, transient orcas. Here is a pair of males spotted yesterday near Nanaimo patrolling the edge of a log boom, a common resting spot for their favourite prey - sea lions.

The transients are relative newcomers. We're more familiar with resident orcas. The residents are fish eaters - salmon, cod, etc. The transients hunt marine mammals - dolphins, seals, sea lions, whale calves.  Warming seas to the south have sent a lot of marine life northward in search of cooler waters.

In the map below, the red dots show how, like a Mongol horde, the transients have swept through the Salish Sea, ranging from Seattle to Campbell River on Vancouver Island.

We're also seeing brown bears, Grizzlies, spreading through the Gulf islands and Vancouver Island. Grizzly sightings were once very rare. Not any more. Maybe the cougar will no longer be the Alpha predator on these islands.


  1. Will the climate-change refugees remain transient or decide to stay? If they stay, will they be successfully assimilated or will the current residents elect to embrace diversity? Diversity is our strength! More important, will they retain their cultural traditions in respect to victuals?

  2. The food chain seems to be migrating out of the warmer waters in the south. That began with the southern herring and anchovy. Within a few years we got our first permanent colony of pelicans that have settled in the region between Victoria and Race Rocks.

    At one point we saw a horde of Humboldt squid, a species associated with the Sea of Cortez, Baja. The vicious bastards caused a stir when they showed up off San Diego. A month or two later they began washing up in the hundreds on the beaches around Tofino and Uclulet.

    We also received huge schools of white sided dolphins. We've always had some dolphins and porpoise but never in these numbers. Ditto for Humpbacks and Grey whales. California sea lions once showed up for major herring runs before heading back south. Now a lot of them have taken up permanent residence.

    Seals, sea lions, dolphins and whale calves - the essential diet of the transient orca. What worries me is the prospect that the transients could have some adverse impact on the already stressed resident orca.

    When I speak to friends and family back east, some still consider the climate crisis overblown, almost a hoax. There's no confusion out here. We've check off all the boxes - wildfires, loss of snowpack, species and pest (especially the pine beetle) migration. It's as real as granite and yet we think it's a good idea to keep flogging high-carbon, low value bitumen on the world markets.

  3. .. This phenom is new to me.. I have some First Nations Twitter contacts but I have been remiss .. I perhaps assumed they and our other wild salmon advocates would be tracking this ! I must be asleep at the wheel to have missed this. Much of my fiction writing includes Orca, whether resident or transient.. and I need to catch up quick on this

  4. There have been some brutal video of these transients on the hunt. One was recorded at the Departure Bay ferry dock in Nanaimo. The tourists were excited to see a large school of white-sided dolphins swarming the ship. Then the hammer dropped. Those dolphins had been herded into the small bay by a pod of orca. These then proceeded to feed. The worst part is the blood stained water.

    There's a small fishing port/processing plant about a mile north of me. There have been a good several sea lions living there, scrounging the leftovers and bycatch. Then three to four orca swam in and laid into them. Those sea lions used to be my pre-dawn alarm clock. No more. Now those still living in the port stay deadly quiet lest they draw the orca back in.

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