"I knew it may be one of the rarest shots I’ve ever taken," wildlife photographer Chase Dekker said
Accidents happen, even for larger than life animals!
Wildlife photographer Chase Dekker was out on a whale-watching trip with Sanctuary Cruises last week when he witnessed something he had never seen before, The Sacramento Bee reported.
In the midst of the trip, whales and sea lions were feeding on a school of anchovies, when one sea lion accidentally got caught in the mouth of a humpback whale.
“Just the other day I witnessed something out on Monterey Bay I had never seen before,” Dekker wrote on Instagram. “While the humpbacks were lunge feeding on a school of anchovies, a sea lion apparently didn’t jump out of the way fast enough and got trapped inside the whales mouth!”
The photographer, with his camera handy, captured the rare moment in an epic photo that has since gone viral on social media.
“As soon as I saw this photograph, I knew it may be one of the rarest shots I’ve ever taken,” Dekker told National Geographic. “Not the most beautiful, not the most artistic, but probably something I would never see again.”
According to the NOAA’s National Marine Mammal Laboratory, humpback whales are filter feeders, and survive off krill, plankton and small fish, such as anchovies — so capturing the sea lion was a complete mistake for the mammal. Anatomist and whale specialist Joy Reidenberg told Nat Geo that it must have been an “odd sensation” for the whale to have such a large animal in its mouth.
Around this time of year, whales, sea lions and other predators are attracted to Monterey Bay to feed — and, according to Dekker, the animals have a system where they essentially “take turns” chowing down on the schools of small fish.
“You start to notice this pattern around bait balls [school of small fish],” Dekker explained to National Geographic. “The whales dive down, and the sea lions generally [move in] shortly after. When the sea lions pop back up, the whales are typically 10 to 30 seconds behind them.”
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While the whales may feed in close quarters with other animals, experts told National Geographic accidents like this are few and far between, with other cases mostly involving small seabirds.
Dekker explained that the sea lion later escaped without issue. The group did not spot any injured sea lions later that day, and the whales continued feeding like normal shortly after the mishap.
“At some point the sea lion escaped and the whale seemed fine too as it continued to feed,” Dekker added on Instagram. “But it must have been a strange experience for both parties!”