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Orcas rub up against pebbles on B.C. beach in rare whale footage

By Marcus Hondro     Feb 4, 2015 in Science
Whales visited a beach in B.C.'s Discovery Islands last week, and they did something whale experts say they've done for many years: they came to shore and rubbed up against the pebbles on the beach. And, happily, someone was there to film it.
That fellow was amateur videographer Chris Wilton, visiting the Discovery Islands, near Campbell River, a little over halfway up Vancouver Island. As Mr. Wilton's video shows, four or more whales were in the Discovery Island beach and they frolicked in pairs and did some pebble rubbing. Some whale experts call it a "cultural" tradition of the magnificent Orca whales.
"Absolutely remarkable footage of northern resident Orcas with their culturally unique behaviour of rubbing themselves on beaches like this," researcher Jackie Hildering wrote on her blog The Marine Detective.
Calling it a "culturally unique behaviour" is fair enough. Another way of looking at? Just whales rubbing themselves on pebbles for fun and to make themselves feel good. It almost took the breath away from Wilton and his whale watching friends and the whales surely knew he and the others were there. It's a testament to how comfortable they feel around humans that they came in so close.
There are 250 resident Orcas in the area, the Vancouver Aquarium notes. Whale researchers in B.C. and at the Center for Whale Research in Washington state keep track of them and give each an identifying number. Hildering said she knew two of the whales Wilton's camera caught.
The southern resident J-pod, not the pod the pebble rubbing Orcas are from, was in the news last month when a mother gave birth to a calf. The mortality rate for newborn Orcas is high but J50 is doing well.
Doubtless waiting for her first opportunity to rub up against pebbles.
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