The behaviors of breeding Steller sea lions in response to encounters with killer whales near the shore were observed on Brat Chirpoev Island, Kuril Islands between May and July 2002–2007. Approaches by killer whales and sea lion behavior was observed visually and recorded. Killer whales approached the rookery 104 times during the entire period of observations (289 days). In most cases (n = 95), beached sea lions did not show any apparent reactions to the presence of killer whales, and there were no observed interactions. Sea lions showed agitation during nine of the approaches; five of these events were considered to be predation attempts. The killer whales attacked the sea lions three times, however all the attacks were unsuccessful. We recorded two different types of responses towards the killer whales: (1) beaching on the shore (three times) and (2) mass exodus from the rookery with subsequent formation of a tight, actively swimming and vocalizing group (six times). The latter is the first recorded observation of this behavior for Steller sea lions. The observation suggests a low degree of interactions between these two species near the studied rookery. Despite the numerous observations of killer whales near the rookery, there were no observations of direct predation on sea lions. It is likely the killer whale predation has little or no direct impact on the Steller sea lion population on Brat Chirpoev Islands during the breeding period.
Russian Journal of Marine Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 10, 2009
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