Orcas Filmed Feet From Vancouver Shore, Rubbing Their Bellies On Stones

A pod of orcas have been filmed off the coast of Vancouver Island, venturing into the shallows to rub their stomachs on smooth stones in an incredible and rarely seen display.

Builder Chris Wilton filmed the orcas from just a few feet away, according to the Daily Mail, when he observed them at Bates Beach in Courtenay, British Columbia. Describing the orcas’ actions as one of the most amazing things he’d ever observed, Wilton noted that the display lasted over an hour. He managed to film four and a half minutes of the orcas approaching the shore, which he then posted online.

“I was at work putting a new roof on a home when we heard what sounded like orcas coming around the corner,” he recalled.

“We ran out front to see and were quite amazed to see what was happening. There were four or five orcas coming in and out of the beach and swimming right up ashore within six feet of us.”

Northern resident orcas are noted for the unusual behavior, although scientists are unsure of what motivates the killer whales to do so. The Marine Detective blogger Jackie Hildering weighed in on the orca footage with an analysis that was posted to Facebook by the Orca Network.

“Absolutely remarkable footage of Northern Resident Orca with their culturally unique behavior of rubbing themselves on beaches like this (“Residents” are inshore fish-eaters). I happen to be with whale researchers Janie Wray and Christie McMillan and we believe these whales are the A42 matrliine. The big male is very distinct – he is A66 born in 1996. Footage is from yesterday somewhere in the Discovery Islands.”

At least four orcas are visible in the clip, as the CBC notes, circling the beach and taking their turns approaching to rub their stomachs across the smooth pebbles. The behavior is almost entirely unique to the northern resident population of orca whales, and is difficult for researchers to study, as it is rarely observed. Though there is little explanation for the orcas’ actions, some scientists have postulated that it may be a learned behavior that is passed between generations.

Recently, a group of orcas astonished onlookers in California when they interacted with a trio of photographers on a small, inflatable boat. As the Inquisitr previously reported, the orcas repeatedly approached the vessel, engaging in a behavior known as “mugging.”

[Image: Chris Wilton via the Daily Mail]