Why Orcas Don’t Eat People: Science and Myth

Natsilane, a charming and accomplished woodworker, wed the Chief’s daughter. To abandon Natsilane at sea during a traditional sea lion hunt, his brothers-in-law, who were envious of Natsilane’s fame and talent, came up with a scheme. Natsilane was called from beneath the water by a sea lion after being abandoned to perish on a little rock in the middle of nowhere and injured by a spear while on the hunt. The sea lion implored him to treat his son. The Sea Lion Chief removed the spear point, bestowed Natsilane with extraordinary abilities, and assisted him in returning to land. He started making a large whale out of various sorts of wood, still enraged over being left behind. The first two sculptures floated away when placed in the water. The third, though, which was built of yellow cedar, began to move. Natsilane despatched it as retaliation against his in-law brothers. The brothers were slain when the killer whale attacked their boat and discovered them. However, Natsilane regretted what he had done, and when the whale returned to him, he never gave it orders again to hurt anyone.

The myth attempts to explain a puzzling orca phenomenon. They never assault anybody. Why not, is the question. They are more powerful and larger than us, have sharper teeth, and are carnivores on a basic biological scale. Humans might be a good little lunch for creatures like ourselves, but no orcas.

Observation has suggested that one solution could be close to the origin of folklore. Killer whales adhere to standards beyond simple instinct and even touch on culture. Scientists have noticed “greeting rites” between pods. They have even seen anything similar to a funeral. There may very well be a social norm against pursuing humans within “orca culture.”

That we just aren’t delicious enough to be on the killer whales’ menu could be a more rational argument. It seems that orcas are picky eaters. We don’t resemble any traditional food sources that killer whales depend on, which is a third potential explanation. According to reports, there have been instances where an orca tried to hunt a person but stopped the pursuit as soon as it realized it wasn’t a sea lion.

Orcas have a definite cause to despise us, possibly even a good enough one to desire retaliation, but they choose not to. Friendship may be the solution in this case. Nomadic killer whales have frequently flocked to people, connecting with them and engaging in playful interactions. According to facilities like Sea World trainers, Orca training is relatively minor. The whales appear to comprehend human beings and are willing to collaborate and form relationships.

There have been no apparent cases of orcas attacking humans in aquatic parks where the whales have murdered trainers. Many experts believe these attacks result from play going out of control and are not malevolent. The Orca Network’s Howard Garrett is in disagreement. He contends that the attacks are planned, albeit not always murderous. Garrett theorizes that when tensions mount from being hand-fed, kept apart from their pods, and housed in tiny concrete tanks, the orcas may periodically lash out.

Whether or not that is the case, it is evident that orcas appear to adhere to a fairly general rule in the wild: don’t attack people. It would seem that both biological and cultural factors are at blame. There have been killer whales for around 11 million years. We are a relatively young species on the earth in comparison to them. Even though we are physically incapable of coexisting with this apex predator, they have decided to do so. They owe us just as much.

At the very least, we should appreciate and adore them, and we may be thankful to Natsilane for telling the killer whale to obey the fundamental principle.