GALVESTON, Texas – Last week’s viral video of orcas swimming near a Galveston Party Boat had people talking about the wonders of the island’s wildlife.
Greg Whittaker, animal husbandry manager and wildlife expert with Moody Gardens, spoke to KPRC 2 about these unexpected visitors of the Gulf and what other animals Galveston visitors can expect to see around the island.
“It was surprising, I knew there were orcas out there but it’s the story that makes you appreciate how much you don’t know about the Gulf of Mexico and the oceans around us,” he said.
Rare killer whale sighting from the New Buccaneer’s 30-hour trip today! These beautiful creatures put on quite the show - enjoy!Posted by Galveston Party Boats, Inc. on Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Whittaker said he conducted research on Orcas because he knew there would be resident pods of Orcas in the Gulf year-round.
When asked if the large influx of Orcas in the Gulf was due to changes in climate, Whittaker said it is highly unlikely it would be climate-related, but rather a seasonal event.
“More likely these pods are coming from the Atlantic to get away from colder waters. Usually, they would be hunting fish such as tuna and smaller dolphin species,” Whittaker said.
While orcas are rare in the Gulf, they are also an endangered species, wrote NOAA Fisheries. Scientists are still finding ways to protect them from becoming extinct.
What other species can be found in Galveston?
Aside from Orcas, these animals below can also be found around Galveston:
Most commonly found on both sides of Galveston, dolphins in the area are very used to people, and Bottlenose Dolphins are the most common species found around the waters, especially when boating.
Sea turtles, according to Whittaker, are usually found in the bay areas of the Gulf, foraging for food.
Several species of stingrays, Southern and Cow-Nose, are found in the Gulf often. Larger stingrays are usually found in the deeper waters of the Gulf, while smaller types (usually golden colored) are finding clams on the Gulf shoreline, according to Whittaker.
Whittaker tells KPRC 2 there are a good diversity of sharks in the Gulf, but he doesn’t want visitors to be alarmed. They are usually most common on the West End of Galveston, and they mostly eat fish.