Whale of the day: Mom saves calf from orcas

It's amazing what we land-bound Angelenos keep learning about SoCal marine life since the whale-watch boats started arming themselves with cameras and Facebook pages. The latest observation, from the waters out around the Chanel Islands National Marine Sanctuary off Ventura County: a migrating gray whale protecting her newborn calf in a 20 to 30 minute battle in view of spectators on board a boat from Oxnard. From Pete Thomas again:

The gray whales were extremely fortunate that there were only two young transient killer whales, or orcas, involved in the attack. The oldest is a male about 13 years old, and its sibling, of undetermined sex, is about 7.

Transient killer whales prey predominantly on marine mammals and will often target gray whale calves during the northbound migration from Baja California nursing grounds to Arctic home waters, after the calves have spent a few months fattening up....

On Wednesday the gray whale mother, perhaps having experienced this during a previous migration, aggressively thwarted the killer whales' attempts to single out the calf, although at one point they managed to separate the calf very briefly before giving up and swimming away.

"The mother frantically tried to protect her calf from the marauding pair, and ultimately did so successfully," the whale-watching company stated. "Had there been the rest of the pod around, the little calf may not have been so lucky. Survival of the fittest, and this little calf learned a few more skills today."

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