A rarely seen type of orca was caught on video off the California coast killing and eating a shark on Tuesday.
Photographer Slater Moore used a drone to capture this footage of four offshore killer whales two females and two calves dragging the shark around Monterey Bay:
Moore said the marine mammals were part of a larger group of about 25, some of which later appear in the footage, which was filmed during a cruise with Monterey Bay Whale Watch.
He said the unlucky victim was a sevengill shark.
“A lot of times when we see offshore killer whales it’s hard to tell what they are eating. We hardly ever get footage to see what it actually is,” Katlyn Taylor, a naturalist with Monterey Bay Whale Watch, told Monterey County Weekly. “They specialize in sharks, and probably some types of offshore fish. It’s pretty lucky to see them.”
As their name suggests, the offshore killer whales tend to keep further from the shore than other types. NOAA Fisheries says they are often at least 9 miles from shore.
“Offshore killer whales are among the least observed and understood of all killer whale populations,” NOAA Fisheries says on its fact sheet on killer whales.
They tend to travel in groups ranging from 25-75, but pods as large as 200 have been spotted, the agency added.
“Little is known about the elusive Offshore orcas, as they live far from land mainly over the outer continental shelf and are rarely encountered,” said Whale and Dolphin Conservation, a charity dedicated to protecting the mammals, on its website.
When they are encountered, they are often in large groups of 50 or more.
“The teeth of Offshore orcas are often worn down, indicating that they’re eating things with rough skin (like sharks),” the organization said.
Taylor told The Verge that offshore killer whales are spotted in Monterey Bay once every year or so.
“They’re kinda tricky animals to study,” she told the website “They hold their breath a long time, they swim really fast, they travel way offshore. That’s part of the fun though, you never know what’s going to happen.”