Did you know orcas – aka “killer whales” – are actually members of the dolphin family?
Of course, there’s a reason they got labeled as “killers.”
According to Whale and Dolphin Conservation of North America:
“Orcas were given the name ‘killer whale’ by ancient sailors’ observations of groups of orcas hunting and preying on larger whale species. They called orcas asesina ballenas, or ‘whale killer’ – a term that was eventually flipped around to the easier ‘killer whale.'”
Turns out, they enjoy snacking on the occasional otter as well.
Circle of life and all that.
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John Dornellas works for Coldwater Alaska, an exploration company that provides tourists the chance to see marine life up close. But back in July, he got quite a view of it himself.
The 37-year-old boat captain was in Halibut Cove, Alaska when he spotted an orca. But that’s fairly common and humans have nothing to fear from the creatures.
But it was a much smaller creature that he saw trying to escape the orca that made his day a memorable one.
On an Instagram post featuring the moment, Dornellas said:
“What an unreal experience. We took the engines out of gear about two hundred yards off and watched an otter come swimming full speed at my boat, the orca chasing behind. I have to say, this is not how I imagined how my morning would start.”
At first, he wondered why the orca was interested in being so close to his boat.
“Oh my gosh. It’s coming right to the front of the boat!” he exclaims on a video captured by fellow boat captain Chantrelle Major who was also in the cove that morning.
Then he saw the otter swimming for its life.
It swam around the boat, looking for the best place to jump aboard before seeking refuge.
Seconds later, the orca surfaces!
“Oh dude, that poor otter wants to get the heck out of the water. Oh my gosh, oh this poor dude,” he can be heard saying on the video.
The Daily Mail reported his later reaction:
“Utter, primal fear from the otter was also felt, but the combination of such power and helplessness left a knot in my stomach. I felt incredibly fortunate to be able to see such an interaction.”
The otter then gets back in the water. At first, it appears it was just looking for the all-clear, but Dornellas later said that he thinks it was attempting a rescue.
“I believe the orca had an otter pup in its mouth, so I’m guessing that’s why the otter kept getting back into the water, but eventually it climbed aboard, refusing to leave,” he said.
Despite getting a uniquely good view of marine interactions on a near-daily basis, this was still a heart-thumping moment for Dornellas. He could feel the fear in the air as the otter both scrambled to save the pup and tried to avoid becoming the next meal.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for him.
“Nothing I could plan for or do could possibly arrange this encounter, so I was left feeling humble and grateful.”
We’re sure the otter felt grateful he was out in his boat that day as well!
Be sure to scroll down below to see the dramatic footage from the incident.
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