Leave the animals alone

Maybe I’m a party pooper. Maybe I’m a grump. Why do some kayakers feel the need to paddle around whales? The videos I’ve seen are ridiculous. What’s the point of getting so close? It seems intrusive, rude and … stupid to bother a whale while it’s eating.

I’m curious. I would never want to ride my bike around a grazing buffalo or worse , a pack of wolves ( land Orcas) .

What am I missing?


Why do I try and sneak onto a heard of elk, a buck or a bear when I don’t have a bow in my hand? Why do people climb a mountain? To see and experience something unique that few people have a chance to experience. You don’t actually think the wales are bothered by a kayaker do you? For lots of people kayaking, camping, hiking and he like aren’t just about being afloat on a body or water, being in the vicinity of trees or exercise. It’s about being in, seeing and experiencing what nature has to offer, maybe even learn a thing or two along the way. I’m not crazy about the idea of paddling around a wale myself, but that’s because we are insignificant and small and accidental injury could be easy.


I have no experience paddling with whales but I do have a policy of not disturbing wildlife. As one paddling partner pointed out, even avoiding eye contact seems to make the critters feel more comfortable. I think you can tell if you are making an animal uncomfortable. In the case of whales I wouldn’t be surprised if they have the higher intelligence.


Maybe the whales are harassing the yakers or just having fun!

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In my only close whale encounter, the humpbacks were nowhere near us although we could hear them spout. We did not go to see them up close. However, they then came to us and one went directly under our kayak. So you may have a point msparky.

I’ve also had sea lions follow us.

In general we leave the wildlife alone and avoid close encounters when feasible.


I’d bet the whales really don’t give a rats ass about a person in a kayak.


I stared an eagle in its eye.
It saw so way beyond me.
And though I saw perched great grandeur there,
it overlooked this mundane fishy.

I stared an otter in its eye.
Thought I might gleam its playful joy.
It’s curiosity dissolved in my glance,
submerged and sped off in annoy.

I stared a gray whale in its eye.
It spouted a blast of stale air,
which had carried it through much greater depths,
than this being at surface might share.


I think it’s ignorance for the most part. If I was watching humpback whales feeding and a school of fish suddenly appeared near or under my boat I’d be paddling away as fast as I could. :grinning:


There are laws protecting cetaceans which require people to stay away from whales. All whales all the time.

The rules vary but 100 yards is the minimum viewing distance. For killer whales in WA State the rule is 200 yards. For right whales in the N Atlantic the rule is 500 yards. The Marine Mammals Protection Act is a Federal law.

I have seen killer whales from a power boat. We stayed 200 yards away from them, but could still smell the salmon on their breath.


Sometimes sea mammals come to the paddlers, not the other way around. It can happen in either a curious and friendly manner or a slightly threatening one.

Same range of possibilities with land mammals, or birds anywhere.

Never assume.


Yes, I’ve had a few memorable encounters when the critters approached me. And I think there’s a third category…where we stumble across each other accidentally and are suddenly much closer together than expected.


Humans, including kayakers, do have adverse effects on whales when we approach too closely. From the Federal Register notice of National Marine Fisheries Service’s 2011 update to the southern resident killer whale regulations:

“While kayaks are small and quiet, they have the potential to disturb whales as obstacles on the surface. Kayaks may startle marine mammals by approaching them without being heard…In the presence of only kayaks, the probability that the whales will shift to travel behavior from other behavior states (including feeding) significantly increased compared to no-boat conditions, which indicates an avoidance tactic.”

Citation: 76 Fed. Reg. 20884

Just because whales are larger than we are doesn’t mean they do not react to our presence.



You can see the school of shiners in the water just before the whale broached.

The video shown today on the site shows too many people too close. Stay away from bait balls and schools of salmon. Stay away from whatle.s


Manatees are not slow and placid at mating time. They do not like canoes when they are mating and will come up under your boat. The trouble is they are not always visible in brown water till its too late

The monkeys on Homosassa River must have been laughing when I was done in.

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From what I’ve seen, about 95 per cent of all wildlife encounters are initiated by paddlers. In the vast majority of these cases, the paddlers are seeking something to put on their facebook pages to awe and amaze their friends. The 2 paddlers paddling on top of the bait ball while whales were feeding in the area were just ignorant, know nothings in my opinion. They had no business whatsoever being as close to the feeding whales as they were. Hopefully they learned their lesson, but I doubt it.

Want an exnciting, close encounter with wildlife; want a good video for utube? Tie a couple of legs of lamb on a rope to the back of your sit on top, or kayak. Carry along a couple of gallons of chum, and chum behind you as you paddle around the Farallon Islands. Hopefully, someone will be able to retrieve your Go Pro, and the part of your body it’s still strapped too to ID who you were.
Video with likely go viral and get a million views; your friends and family will be so proud and amazed.amazed. :slightly_smiling_face:

Leave the animals alone, and give them a wide berth. Want to see them up close; carry binoculars.

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Do not kayak on the buffett table. Goes for mullet schools, seals, etc when the sharks are feeding.

Agree on the manatees at mating.

Besides bump into an unseen one and a 1000 + pound animal can do damage trying to get away. I’ve been flooded. Others have been lifted up out of water and capsized.

The advice to never pursue wildlife is good.

However, once in a great while, I’ve had wild animals that came right up to me and seemed comfortable just being around, even looking curiously right into my eyes. This did not involve any feeding or other human tricks. I merely had been sitting still for a long time.

The standout marine mammal encounter happened on a self-supported kayak trip in the Inside Passage. The four of us paddlers noticed a humpback whale was swimming parallel and close to us, and it had been doing so for a while. Matching our pace. We could hear it regularly making some kind of sound underwater, too.

Unfortunately, a boat maybe half a mile away suddenly turned towards us, obviously speeding up “to see the whale, folks!” Our big buddy dove deep and disappeared for many minutes, during which time the jerk boater got next to us and circled around, obviously hoping we would “point where he went!” NOPE. We kept our lips sealed and arms signal-free. Azzholes had scared off the whale, dumbfcks. We were angry.

Sad to lose our pod companion, we continued, silent. After many minutes had passed and the jerk boater had sped out of sight, guess what happened. Our buddy quietly reappeared next to us, in exactly the same position relative to us. We must have paddled 4 or 5 miles with him in all. An encounter I’ll always cherish.


The two northern bottle nosed whales I saw close up, came to see me. I did not seek them out and of course could do nothing other than remain still. Thankfully I was in calm waters (Loch Goil) and was able to sit and watch until they swam off.