A trip to the BC coast would simply not be the same without the broad array of oceanic mammals that call it home. This Week’s Wildlife Wednesday pays homage to one of these extraordinary animals, the Dall’s Porpoise!
Robust and muscular, the Dall’s porpoise feeds on a number of species including anchovies, herring, smelts, squid, octopus and occasionally shrimp and crab. They hunt at night when their prey vertically migrate to the surface of the water, making fairly easy targets for hungry porpoises. In dire circumstances, these marvelous mammals have the ability to dive up to 500 m in order to rustle up some grub!
Dall’s porpoises distinguish themselves greatly from other members of the family in their gregarious nature. Whereas most porpoises tend to be shy and secretive, Dall’s porpoises are inquisitive creatures who generally aren’t afraid to explore and interact with other species. These guys will often playfully charge and swim along with our water taxis, creating somewhat of a spectacle for thrilled guests! Though friendly at a distance, they do not tend to socialize with humans, instead choosing the company of Pacific White Sided Dolphins and Short Finned Pilot Whales.
The fastest of the Cetaceans (an order of marine mammals that comprises the whales, dolphins, and porpoises), Dall’s porpoises can travel at speeds of up to 55km per hour! They move in a distinct zig-zag pattern, jerking quickly from side to side in steep angled turns. On tours, guests can easily identify distant Dalls’ due to the “rooster tail” that they create during their brisk surfacing. Because they do not bring their entire robust bodies out of the water, a cone of water forms around their head, resulting in a hollow airspace that allows them to actually breathe while swimming…pretty awesome!
If you would like to see a shot of these guys in action, check out this sweet video on the swimming patterns of these incredible porpoises: http://www.arkive.org/dalls-porpoise/phocoenoides-dalli/video-00.html. As always though, we encourage joining a Spirit of the West tour for a chance to experience the amazing wildlife of the BC coast first hand!