British Columbia

Deer in water encounters killer whales off B.C. coast

A B.C. skipper stumbled on a young buck swimming right past a pod of killer whales on Sunday, snapping a few pictures of the encounter as he went.

Skipper Mark Malleson says he's never seen anything like it

A swimming deer nearly ran into a pod of killer whales lurking off the coast of Sooke, B.C. on Sunday. (Mark Malleson)

A B.C. skipper stumbled on a rare sight Sunday: a young buck swimming right past a pod of killer whales lurking nearby.

Mark Malleson was leading a whale-watching tour near East Sooke Park when he spotted four transient orcas.

He thought he saw a moving tree nearby — but it was actually a deer's antlers.

The deer was heading out into the Juan de Fuca strait. (Mark Malleson)

Malleson, who's been leading tours in B.C. for over 20 years, said he's never seen a deer so close to a pod.

Killer whales very rarely "intercept" deer and moose swimming between coastal islands if the opportunity arises, according to the Encylopedia of Marine Mammals.

Malleson said he's heard of that happening off the Alaskan coast, but he's never seen any proof.

Four T-137 transient killer whales were spotted off East Sooke Park on Sunday. (Mark Malleson)

"I was sort of excited to think I could be one of the first people to photo-document a hunt," he said.

"Unfortunately, there was no predation," added Malleson, who's also a research assistant with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.  

"Well, fortunately for the deer ... but unfortunately for the photo-op."

Still, Malleson snapped some photos of the deer and the whales — although they never got close enough to each other for a group shot.

Once the orcas left the area, Malleson used his Zodiac to herd the deer back to shore. 

"It felt good getting the buck back to safety," he said. "He seemed pretty tired."

The buck eventually made it safely back to shore. (Mark Malleson)