Transient orcas inhabiting the U.S. West Coast are known for preying on marine mammals such as harbor seals. These intelligent creatures have been observed employing various hunting tactics, including tossing their prey to stun or kill them. A noteworthy instance captured by researcher Alisa Schulman-Janiger, co-founder of the California Killer Whale Project, features a male orca propelling a harbor seal an astonishing 70 feet into the air using its flukes.
This remarkable event took place off Port Angeles in Washington State eight years ago but still remains an unforgettable moment for Schulman-Janiger. The family of orcas involved in the event are identified as TO69s, with the male orca responsible for the incredible feat being TO69C – a young adult who was around 20 years old at the time.
The incident was documented in both photographs and video footage, illustrating the moment when TO69C successfully launched the seal into the air after three failed attempts. As the harbor seal flew above circling gulls with wide eyes, TO69C’s mother (T069) and two siblings hunted nearby. Eventually, all members of the orca family partook in the harbor seal meal.
The documentation of this event sparked debates regarding the exact height the seal reached at its highest point, with estimates ranging from 70 to 80 feet. However, the 70-foot estimation remains the more conservative figure.