Dolphins and Porpoises of Campbell River

Dolphins and porpoises are part of the toothed whale family Odontocete. There are a number of dolphin and porpoise species in British Columbia’s waters, with 3 species that we regularly see in Campbell River. The others are typically only spotted off the continental shelf west of Vancouver Island, so sightings are rare and not much is known about them.

Here’s the 3 main species we see on our whale watching tours in Campbell River, BC:

Pacific white-sided dolphin

Pacific White-Sided Dolphins Campbell River

Photo by Andy Scheffler.

Agile, playful, and highly social. This species is one of our favourites to see on our whale watching tours!

Identified by their curved dorsal fin and tricoloured body, they reach upwards of 8ft long and 400lb. They can be found in pods of 10-200 individuals, and sometimes superpods of thousands! It’s estimated that there are 25,000 individuals off the coast of British Columbia, and they’re listed as “Not At Risk”.

They can be seen bow-riding, wake-riding, and jumping up to 20ft in the air! They can also be very chatty – on our tours, we like to use our hydrophone when around them to hear their whistles and chattering. On one tour, one dolphin even grabbed the end of the hydrophone in its mouth and pulled on it!

Dall’s Porpoise

One of the fastest marine mammals in the world! Travels up to 55km/hr in short bursts and can create a “rooster tail” when breaking the surface at high speeds.

Identified by their triangular dorsal fin, stocky body, and black & white colouration, they reach upwards of 8ft long and 490lb. They can be found in pods of 2-12 individuals, but have been recorded in superpods of hundreds or thousands! They are considered relatively abundant, and they’re listed as “Not At Risk”.

They’re sometimes mistaken as baby killer whales, because of their colouration. But don’t be fooled, Dall’s porpoises are actually preyed upon by killer whales. Because of their high-speed capabilities, they’re able to out-swim their predators!

Harbour Porpoise

Shy, elusive, and have an interesting feature…

The smallest porpoises in British Columbia, they’re identified by their triangular dorsal fin and grey body. They can reach 5ft long and 170lb. They can be found singly or in pods of 2-10 individuals. There is an estimated 700,000 individuals worldwide, and they’re listed as “Special Concern”. They are difficult to observe because if a vessel slows down or alters course, they tend to disappear.

Their interesting feature is their massive testes – which can weigh a whopping 4-6% of their total body weight! That means if a male weighs 150lb, his testes can weigh up to 9lb! This is one of the largest testes to body weight ratio in the animal kingdom!

Fun fact: all 3 species above are preyed upon by Bigg’s killer whales. Because of their agility and high-speed capabilities, these predation events are typically dramatic.

Want to see the dolphins and porpoises in Campbell River? Join us on a whale watching tour this summer!


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