Passengers on a whale watching excursion witnessed survival in the wild this week when two Orcas tried to separate a baby gray whale from its mother near their boat in the waters off the Channel Islands.
"The mother, frantically tried to protect her calf from the marauding pair, and ultimately did so successfully ... this time," the Oxnard-based Channel Islands Whale Watching wrote on its Facebook page.
"Had there been the rest of the pod around, the little calf may not have been so lucky. Survival of the fittest, and this little calf learned a few more skills today."
The 20-minute attack on Tuesday was witnessed by passengers aboard the Ranger 85 near Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
The young calf appeared to be only a few days old, according to Frank Ursitti, owner Ranger 85.
"I would say the calf was born within a 100 mile radius within the Channel Islands," Ursitti said.
He said the Channel Islands are "teeming with wildlife," including white sharks, California sea lions and whales.
The two Orcas were identified by a researcher as an orphaned pair, and the younger one had not been seen since April, Ursitti said.
"When Orcas go after mother-calf pairs, they will go after the north bounders. The calves have nursed, they have a much higher percentage of body fat," he said.
The gray whales were on their annual southbound migration between Alaska and Mexico. While hunting, Orcas are known to separate a mother from its calf, surround the calf and keep it from surfacing in order to drown it.