A Rare Visit from a Pilot Whale Family off Orange County, Complete with 2 Babies in Tow

Pilot whales have not been seen in Orange County waters for over 20 years, says Dana Point's Capt. Dave Anderson.

Photo by Dale Frink. © David Anderson/DolphinSafari.com
Photo by Dale Frink. © David Anderson/DolphinSafari.com

From Capt. David Anderson at DolphinSafari in Dana Point:

A pod of pilot whales, including mothers and newborn calves, paid an extremely rare visit to Southern California today. 

Passengers and crew aboard Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari in Dana Point were out on one of their regular dolphin and whale watching excursions expecting to see a huge herd of dolphins and maybe a fin or blue whale. 

Instead they were surprised and thrilled to encounter a pod of around 50 pilot whales! A curious mom and calf came up to window of underwater viewing pod and looked at the people in pod.

Pilot whales have not been seen in Orange County waters for over 20 years! 

"When I was making my film on the whales and dolphins in this area, pilot whales were like the Holy Grail,” Capt. Dave explained. “I tried and tried to find some and I could not even find anyone that had seen any since the late '80s.

"Every time someone called me with reports of pilot whales in the area, I went after them and they always turned out to be false killer whales or risso’s dolphin. This is amazing and truly a rare sighting. With squid now being plentiful in the area I can only hope that this sighting may mark the return of pilot whales to this area."

Pilot whales disappeared from the area about 30 years ago after an El Nino event caused the squid population to go way down and scientists don’t know exactly why they’re not here anymore as there are plenty of squid now. 

About the time pilot whales left, risso’s dolphins began appearing. Pilot whales, like killer whales, are a member of the dolphin family. They love to eat squid but they will consume fish too. Pilot whales are large with adult males averaging around 18 to 20 feet in length. They’re second in size only to killer whales and are highly intelligent.

Brainwashed_In_Church June 08, 2014 at 08:58 AM
You can tell it's fake.
jl4man June 08, 2014 at 11:58 AM
WOW - amazing. I was on a 14 feet sail boat last month and saw 2 mommy gray whales with their calfs - and dolphin. AMAZING. - Breathe taking and life changing. Dana point rocks
Tennickly June 08, 2014 at 12:06 PM
It's just not true that they haven't been here in 20 years. I have seen them when out sailing.
The Beast ! June 09, 2014 at 02:35 PM


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