orcas churchill

Photo © Sea North Tours, via Winnipeg Free Press

While orcas were once a rare occurrence in Churchill, sightings have been steadily increasing in recent years.  And just last week, one was spotted hunting the normal resident marine mammals – beluga whales.

The Winnipeg Free Press reports that a tour group near Churchill spotted as many as 11 orcas just last week after only 20 minutes of searching. One young orca surfaced just one yard away from their boat. This group was even lucky enough to see the pod of orcas feed on a beluga whale! Sightings of this magnitude are becoming common around Churchill as the environment of the Hudson Bay changes.

As the Arctic has been dramatically influenced by global climate change and sea ice has melted, the Hudson Bay’s open-water season has expanded. This is ideal for orcas as their large dorsal fins had made it difficult for them to manage the ice-heavy waters. While this change in environment has been positive in providing new habitat for orcas, other species such as polar bears have lost critical habitat.

The change in climate and habitat has encouraged orcas to both travel further north into the Arctic and to stay for longer periods of time. Churchill’s Hudson Bay has become an attractive environment for orcas as the threat of ice-heavy water has decreased providing them with an abundance of newly accessible prey.

As pods of orcas spend more time in the Hudson Bay, it is likely that they will feed more often on the large beluga whale population. While orcas are new to these icy northern waters, beluga whales can be common around Churchill. The same tour group reported “bumper-to-bumper beluga traffic” before spotting the pod of orcas.

Do you want to see whales just like this group did? Join us on our journey to the sub-Arctic to see these amazing creatures on our Churchill: An Arctic Summer trip!

By Derek Ward, Natural Habitat Adventures Marketing Intern