Ecotypic variation and predatory behavior among killer whales (Orcinus orca) off the eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska


Matkin, Craig O., Lance G. Barrett-Lennard, Harald Yurk, David Ellifrit, and Andrew W. Trites
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From 2001 to 2004 in the eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska, killer whales (Orcinus orca) were encountered 250 times during 421 days of surveys that covered a total of 22,491 miles. Three killer whale groups (resident, transient, and offshore) were identified acoustically and genetically. Resident killer whales were found 12 times more frequently than transient killer whales, and offshore killer whales were encountered only once. A minimum of 901 photographically identified resident whales used the region during our study. A total of 165 mammal-eating transient killer whales were identified, and the majority (70%) were encountered during spring (May and June). The diet of transient killer whales in spring was primarily gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus), and in summer primarily northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus). Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) did not appear to be a preferred prey or major prey item during spring and summer. The majority of killer whales in the eastern Aleutian Islands are the resident ecotype, which does not consume marine mammals.