Orca ‘punts’ sea lion 20 feet into air as boaters watch in awe

Whale Watchers in California’s Monterey Bay spent part of Thanksgiving Day watching orcas showing a new pod member how to hunt sea lions.

One of the behaviors involved “punting” a sea lion “almost 20 feet in the air,” according to Monterey Bay Whale Watch.

The company explained via social media:

“Based on the behavior observed, this was clearly a training session for the new calf in the pod that is only several months old!

“Once they successfully killed a sea lion, the members of the pod took turns displaying attack maneuvers and behaviors to further instruct their newest pod member on how to hunt.”

The four orcas, or killer whales, belong to a family scientifically cataloged as the CA51As.

Striking images captured by Morgan Quimby show them participating in the hunt and the sea lion sailing through the air. (Click here to watch a harbor seal being punted 70 feet high.)

Monterey Bay Whale Watch added: “While it is hard to watch them hunt in this way, it is important to the survival of the pod. We got some amazing looks at this notoriously friendly pod as they practiced hunting techniques on the sea lion and slowed down towards the end of the encounter making close passes to the boat before prey sharing with one another.”

New orca calf participating in the hunt. Photo: ©Morgan Quimby Photography

The CA51As are transient killer whales, which prey almost exclusively on other marine mammals, including dolphins and baby gray whales.

Leading the hunt was the matriarch, CA51A, nicknamed Aurora. She’s the daughter of CA51, who was not present during the encounter.

Story originally appeared on For The Win