From Capt. David Anderson at DolphinSafari in Dana Point:
A pod of pilot whales, including mothers and newborn calves, paid an extremely rare visit to Southern California today.
Passengers and crew aboard Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari in Dana Point were out on one of their regular dolphin and whale watching excursions expecting to see a huge herd of dolphins and maybe a fin or blue whale.
Instead they were surprised and thrilled to encounter a pod of around 50 pilot whales! A curious mom and calf came up to window of underwater viewing pod and looked at the people in pod.
Pilot whales have not been seen in Orange County waters for over 20 years!
"When I was making my film on the whales and dolphins in this area, pilot whales were like the Holy Grail,” Capt. Dave explained. “I tried and tried to find some and I could not even find anyone that had seen any since the late '80s.
"Every time someone called me with reports of pilot whales in the area, I went after them and they always turned out to be false killer whales or risso’s dolphin. This is amazing and truly a rare sighting. With squid now being plentiful in the area I can only hope that this sighting may mark the return of pilot whales to this area."
Pilot whales disappeared from the area about 30 years ago after an El Nino event caused the squid population to go way down and scientists don’t know exactly why they’re not here anymore as there are plenty of squid now.
About the time pilot whales left, risso’s dolphins began appearing. Pilot whales, like killer whales, are a member of the dolphin family. They love to eat squid but they will consume fish too. Pilot whales are large with adult males averaging around 18 to 20 feet in length. They’re second in size only to killer whales and are highly intelligent.