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Whale Reports | Whale Report 2
Three Orcas and a Humpback
A Report of a Humpback Wounded by Orcas off the Newfoundland Coast
Author David Snow, Wildland Tours
In early July 2005, three orcas swam into the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve area. The waters were teaming with billions of caplin (a six-inch long member of the smelt family) and millions of seabirds including puffins, murres and razorbills. I have watched Newfoundland and Labrador orcas eat seabirds and caplin, but on this evening the orcas were most interested in a small humpback. Nobody was close to the white frothing water during the evening attack but Photo 1 of this article was taken three days after the attack. Loose flesh can be seen dangling off the humpback that the local operators started calling "Lucky". The dorsal fin area appeared to be raw flesh. There were no other obvious injuries to the humpback.
Prior to the attack, Lucky was one of 40 or 50 humpbacks feeding in the area. After the attack, several local operators commented that the humpback appeared to be "keeping to itself" and there was speculation that Lucky was seriously injured or in shock. After taking photo of the tail and dorsal fins, we joined the region's other operators in leaving the wounded animal in peace.
As the caplin dispersed and the other humpbacks in the region swam north, Lucky remained in the same few hundred square meters of water. Wildland Tours' groups observed him throughout late July and well into August noting that Lucky appeared to be feeding normally. The animal did appear to be reluctant to leave the area of water where the orca attack occurred. Lucky finally departed the Witless Bay area in late August after gaining star status as the last whale in the area; and as an animal with an incredible story to tell. Elaine's Bed and Breakfast in Witless Bay provided photos two and three for this article. These mid August photos show that Lucky's wounds did heal.
This humpback's tail region is now very distinctive with orca bite marks visible all around it. Atlantic Whales is working to document the numbers of humpbacks being marked by orcas and the influence orcas may be having on humpbacks. Check out the special Orca Encounter Scars section of our website. Anybody seeing Lucky is asked to report their sightings to us.
Dave Snow has written numerous articles and special publications on seabirds, whales, and marine ecology. Wildland Tours promotes and coordinates the Newfoundland and Labrador portion of the world-wide humpback whale census. This population has been found to be the planet's largest feeding gathering of humpbacks. The study of whale numbers provides important insights into oceanic health.