Over 10 Killer Whales Trapped Amid Drift Ice Off Coast of Hokkaido’s Shiretoko Peninsula

Courtesy of Wildlife Pro LLC
A pod of killer whales stuck in drift ice in Rausu, Hokkaido, is seen Tuesday morning.

Local fishermen discovered a pod of killer whales trapped amid drift ice about one kilometer off the coast of Rausu, Hokkaido, at around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday and alerted the municipal government. Rausu is in the southern part of the Shiretoko Peninsula, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

Wildlife Pro LLC, which researches Shiretoko’s sea lions and other wildlife, took drone photos of the pod. It appeared to have 16 to 17 orcas, including several young ones. The orcas were crowded together in a small area of open water between the drift ice, repeatedly sticking out their heads to breathe. By around noon, however, they were completely out of sight.

The drift ice appeared in Shari on the northern side of the Shiretoko Peninsula on Monday, according to the municipal government. The ice continued to move southward, reaching the coast of Rausu by Tuesday morning.

In 2005, nine killer whales became trapped in drift ice off the coast of Rausu and later died.