If I were to make a list of my favorite things, orcas would definitely make the top five. Ever since I was a young girl, I have been fascinated by the majestic black and white creatures. I very clearly remember an elementary school project where we were asked to share a dream with the class. And, my dream to someday see orcas in the wild was fulfilled in 2004 when I observed a pod of orcas off the coast of Washington. Unfortunately, I have taken two more whale watching tours since then, but failed to see orcas either time. Just FYI, I don’t recommend taking an open speed boat tour in 40 degree weather in the rain… possibly the most miserable three hours of my life.
I have always refused to refer to orcas (Orcinus orca) as “killer whales” even though that is their most common name. Regardless of the negative connotation, the name is a serious misnomer. Orcas are not actually whales, but rather the largest member of the dolphin family. The “killer” part of the name is not so black and white (pun intended). There are no known incidents of an orca killing a human in the wild. And, although some orcas do eat large mammals, many of them feed exclusively on fish.