Location: Big Sur
# of killer whales: 20
Rare offshore (ecotype) killer whale sighting in Big Sur today! Tim Huntington (Webnectar photography) spotted over 20 of these rarely encountered orcas about a half-mile off Big Sur. Compared to our typically seen Bigg's transient killer whales (who prey on marine mammals), offshore killer whales are smaller, and generally have more rounded-tipped dorsal fins with more nicks/notches, more narrow saddles (a small number have black intrusions similar to some southern resident killer whales), travel in larger groups (usually with multiple subgroups often spread out over miles), and vocalize much more often. They feed primarily on sharks; and also eat large fish. No marine mammal predations have been observed; sometimes they even swim/interact with other marine mammals!
There are about 300 offshore killer whales; they range south to below the California/Mexico border and north of Alaska; most encounters have been off British Columbia. We have documented over 100 encounters off the coast of California since 1992. The female seen here with the substantial black saddle intrusion and many notches in her dorsal fin is O111, one of the most recognizable females in the offshore killer whale population: she has been encountered multiple times off California, and as far north as Alaska!
Link to our published paper on offshore killer whales (2008).