This is not cute, this is a ruthless killing machine. Photo via flikr user Shawn McCready
Be wary, for the whale killers, they be coming.
As of a few years ago, the sight of a killer whale near the northern Manitoba town of Churchill was rare. Now, not so much, as the lack of sea ice has allowed one of the ocean's finest predators to move into the Hudson Bay.
The microcosm of Churchill—Canada's polar bear capital—illustrates a larger problem in the North. Which is, frankly, that thanks to climate change and the melting of sea ice, killer whales are well on their way to replacing the bears as the apex predator.
Which, you know, is just freakin' swell.
"We are seeing a lot more killer whale activity in Hudson Bay and they are a top predator. They are really a magnificent, interesting predator — highly efficient," Steven Ferguson, a researcher with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, told the CBC.
"They appear to be eating other whales and seals and, I would imagine, if we lose our sea ice they will replace polar bears as that top predator."
The killer before their name isn't some sort of ironic joke, for those of you not in the know, killer whales are one of the finest underwater predators in existence. They got their name, not because they're whales (they belong to the dolphin family, which just blew my editor's mind) but because they kill whales—their initial names were "whale killers," like, that's super hardcore.
Some even call them guys "sea wolves," SEA WOLVES!
Orcas are one of the smartest creatures in the ocean, hunt in packs, are speedy as all hell, use their tails to immobilize prey, are massive and eat fucking sharks. These bastards are so intense they'll beach themselves to get a seal just for a goddamn challenge.Like, look at that shit.
Orcas are ruthless, insatiable, smart-as-hell killing machines which doesn't bode well for the other animals up north, particularly the beluga whale population. Belugas, because they're made of meat, are prey for a killer whale. It's estimated that belugas in the Hudson Bay from mid-June to late September number 57,000 (or 35 percent of their worldwide population.)
That's 57,000 tasty treats for Free Willy packs to tear apart.
This switch in the ecosystem's top predator up North is just one of the many things brought upon the area as a result of climate change. Before killer whales would typically avoid the area because the sea ice plays roughshod with their dorsal fins, but less ice means these apex predators can expand their kingdom.
NASA research shows that, because of climate change, the sea ice in the arctic is "declining at a rate of 13.3 percent per decade." If this trend continues overtime the orcas will continue to move further into the Hudson Bay, and other areas, which could drastically change the food chain and the eco system.
So, be wary, for the sea wolves, they be coming.
And they be hungry.
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