Orcas and Gray Whales
Feeding and Survival

On their journey north, gray whales tend to hug the secure shoreline. But some less experienced whales cross the 25-mile wide Monterey Bay. There, and at other places along the whale trail, they might face orcas (often called killer whales). Young gray whales are an important seasonal food source for one type of orca called transients. (One calf can feed up to 30 orcas.)

Read This Report

Resident orcas eat only fish. Transient orcas eat only sea mammals.
Photos: Michael Smith
April 20, 2006
Scott Leon, captain of the Condor

On Wednesday, we leave the harbor and head west along the coast looking for gray whales . . . Captain Mat lets us all know that he is seeing splashing a mile away from another whale and will head in that direction. Anthony turns to Mat to tell him he sees big dorsal fins.

What happens next? >>
Think about what you just read and answer these questions:
  • Why do you think Captain Mat doesn't want to use the boat to help block the orca attack? Do you think humans should interfere with events like this? Why or why not?
  • Use this worksheet to list behaviors and body parts that you think help gray whales and orcas — and their young — get food and survive?
Compare Facts
As you read these facts about gray whales and orcas, do this:
  1. Underline behaviors that you think help each species get food and survive.
  2. Use a marker to highlight body parts that help each get food and survive.
  3. Go back and update your worksheet.
Dig Deeper
Read A Whale Journey — a tale of three whale generations and the events that unfold on their journeys north.