Orcas in the Bay

Killer Whales or Orcas as they are known are the only extant species in the genus Orcinus Orca.   Orca means large bellied pot or jar in Latin and this name was likely picked due to the way the whale’s body is shaped.  There are three different eco types of Killer whales in the North Pacific, resident, transient and offshore.   Each of these eco types will differ in their appearance, their genetics, what they eat and their behavior.   These types are not known to interbreed with each other.  The orcas diet will differ amongst the three types as well with fish and squid being the most common thing they eat.  They will also target seals , seabirds and some will also target whales larger than them as they can consume about 500 pounds of food per day and are the only known predator of great white sharks.

How big do orcas get? The largest recorded was 32 feet in length and weighed 22,000 pounds.  The size of the different eco types can vary significantly.  The average size is between 16 – 26 feet in length and can weigh between 6,600 pounds and 8,800 pounds. Orcas have an average life span ranging from 10 years to 45 years.

Orcas do not reside permanently in Kachemak Bay, they will enter and stay in the bay for several hours before leaving and heading back into the Gulf of Alaska and other areas in southern Alaska. There are 5 distinct pods that frequent Kachemak Bay, they are AP pod, AX27 pod, AD16 pod, AS30 pod , and AD 11 pod. The most frequently seen group in last 5 years inside Kachemak Bay has been the AD pod that consists of about 20 whales.  The best time of year to encounter orcas in Kachemak Bay is from May through July when the salmon start their yearly spawning runs. Orcas can be seen during the day but are considered crepuscular or most active in twilight and can best be seen before sunrise and after sunset.  The Lodge at Otter Cove is nestled in Kachemak Bay and a few of our guests have been lucky enough to have viewed these whales from our deck.  It’s quite a spectacular sight!