Photographer Gets Killer View Of Orca Along Coast

Researcher Believes Orca Separated From Family

Shamu may call San Diego home, but unless you are at SeaWorld, it's unlikely you'll spot a killer whale along the coast.

On Saturday, Dec. 31, 2005, about 150 yards off the beach of La Jolla Shores, former 10News photojournalist Bob Lampert snapped pictures of what he thought was a dolphin.

"All of a sudden, I looked at my picture and the dolphin that I thought was a dolphin, is black and white. So, I zoomed in on it and I'll be darn if it wasn't an orca," Lampert told 10News.

At SeaWorld, scientists study the intelligent killer whales.

"It's very unusual for killer whales to be alone and the one I saw in the picture was not an adult, it was younger. So it's possible it became separated from its family, somehow," said Dr. Ann Bowles, a senior research assistant at Sea World.

With dolphins spotted nearby, Bowles said the orca could have been hunting them or it may have found some friends.

"Safety in numbers -- it's a dangerous world out there, even for a killer whale," Bowles said.

While it's unusual to see killer whales off the San Diego coast, it's not unheard of.

More than 30 years ago, Lampert caught a pod of orcas just off of Bird Rock. He taped the orcas attacking a baby gray whale.

According to 10News, baby gray whales are abundant in the Monterey Bay area, where more orcas are usually spotted. Orcas can also be spotted in the Pacific Northwest, where Lampert lives.

"I've lived up in the Washington coast for five years and haven't seen one. I come to San Diego and bang, there's an orca right here in La Jolla Shores," Lampert said.

The worldwide population of killer whales is not known but they are not endangered. They are most abundant in the Antarctic and Arctic regions.

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