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Orcas Might Eat Deer If Given the Opportunity

One was reported eating a moose that swam into its waters.

Orcas are notoriously vicious predators. They'll use cunning teamwork and strategy to hunt marine mammals — even whale calves. But are orcas so cutthroat that they'll kill anything they find in the water? Like a wayward deer?

In 2012, divers found a deer carcass on the ocean floor off Vancouver Island in Canada.

orcas eat deer Flickr/Erin

It had a huge bite taken out of its side, which could be consistent with an orca bite.

It's impossible to know for sure what killed the deer. But an orca is certainly plausible, reports Earth Touch News. Deer will sometimes swim between the coastal islands off British Columbia, in search of mates or grazing areas. Bigg's orcas, the type of orcas that eat marine mammals, populate these waters.

Orcas are opportunistic hunters. Birds and otters have been found in the stomachs of Bigg's orcas. It's not entirely shocking that they would try killing a deer, especially since deer swim much more slowly than their usual prey.

National Marine Mammal Laboratory biologist Marilyn Dahlheim tells an even more impressive story of an orca pod killing a swimming cow moose and her calf.

orcas eat deer

The incident supposedly happened in 2010 near Gustavus, a town in southeast Alaska.

There are no pictures or video of the incident, but Dahlheim is a long-time researcher of orcas who published a book on the pods of southeast Alaska. You can decide whether you believe her story.

The first account of orcas eating deer was probably from 1961.

orcas eat deer

Canadian fishery officers supposedly witnessed a pod of orcas attack a deer near Jackson Bay, above Vancouver Island. The incident is recounted in this book, but there are no photos to verify it.

As of yet, we're still short on hard evidence that orcas will eat deer (or even moose). But that doesn't mean it hasn't happened, and it doesn't mean we won't find our proof.

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