People have been fascinated by killer whales for decades and even centuries.
Due to the fact that they are an extremely family oriented species and are one of the only cetaceans known to consume other mammals (including large whales) many people have often wondered whether or not a killer whale can eat a person and if it would if it were given the opportunity to.
From our historical understanding of killer whales and the recorded experiences people have shared with these marine mammals we can safely assume that killer whales do not eat people.
In fact there have been no known cases of killer whales eating a human to our knowledge.
In many cases killer whales aren’t even considered a threat to most people.
For the most part killer whales appear to be quite friendly creatures and have been a main attraction at aquarium parks such as sea world for decades.
There have however been several cases of killer whales in captive attacking their trainers, but in those cases the killer whale usually grabbed hold of the trainers limb or hair and pulled the trainer underwater, but they never tried to consume a person.
While these cases have happened they are rare and only a handful of aggressive attacks have been reported over the years.
Most of the attacks that trainers have faced left them with only minor cuts and bruises, although one of these attacks has led to a trainers death.
In addition to rare attacks the number of human fatalities that have been caused by killer whales in captivity is also quite rare, especially since new rules were put in place to limit the trainers direct exposure to killer whales both during training and at live shows.
These new rules are believed to prevent anymore fatalities and/or injuries from occurring in the future.
Some individuals argue that holding a killer whale in captive will increase the likelihood that it will become aggressive towards people and other animals due to the fact that it is being isolated in a small environment and separated from its family and friends.
After all keeping a killer whale away from the ocean and other killer whales can have a huge affect on the marine mammals state of mind and cause it to feel threatened and depressed.
As far as attacks in the wild go these cases are extremely rare and in a number of recorded cases the person attacked only suffered minor injuries, although a small number of people may have had more significant injuries from these attacks.
In most cases once the killer whale realized it wasn’t attacking its usual prey it left the human alone and swam away.
Why killer whales do not eat people
In regards to why killer whales don’t eat people there have been several attempts both scientifically and theoretically to explain their lack of desire to hunt or kill people.
One answer suggests that killer whales don’t find humans tasteful.
Researchers stated that humans don’t appeal to the taste buds of killer whales so they have no desire to eat us.
Another answer is that we do not resemble any type of food source a killer whale is likely to eat so they do not see any reason to attack us.
The third possible reason is that as a society killer whales have taught one another that hunting humans is not good or desirable and that people should be left alone.
As stated before they are a very intelligent species and are capable of making large group based decisions.
In any case most researchers can agree that killer whales just aren’t into hunting and/or eating people.
Are there any cetaceans that do eat people?
As far as we know from a scientific and historical point of view there are no cetaceans (whales dolphins and porpoises) that eat humans.
In fact most marine mammals are incapable of consuming a human due to their lack of teeth, small throat, overall small size or restraints from their standard diet.
In fact most cetaceans have fairly small throats that would make it impossible for them to swallow a human.
One of the few if not the only known cetacean with a big enough throat to swallow a human is the sperm whale.
While they have fairly large throats (these marine mammals can swallow giant squid) they typically hunt for food at depths that are significantly deeper than a human can survive in, therefore the likelihood of being swallowed by a sperm whale is extremely unlikely.
So while killer whales possess the teeth necessary to break a humans body parts down for easy consumption and a sperm whale possesses a throat large enough to consume a human, neither species appears interested in eating people.
The likelihood of being attacked by a killer whale is very low
In addition to the fact that most cetaceans are either unable to eat people or show no interest in consuming humans it is also extremely rare that a person would consume into close contact with with a large cetacean, sperm whale or killer whale.
In most cases humans are either on boats or swimming around in and around the inner coastline where the opportunities to run into a killer whale or other type of large cetacean is extremely rare, and while there are some killer whales that are known to inhibit coastal waters the occurrences where a human comes into close contact with one of these large marine mammals is rare.
As stated earlier there are a number of cases where killer whales have attacked humans in the wild, but these instances were fairly uncommon and when the killer whale realized it wasn’t their typical food they would leave the person alone.
Most attacks that have been recorded occur between a killer whale and his/her trainer as they have been constantly in close contact with one another.
When agitated or stressed out killer whales have been known to attack their trainers in the confined spaces they were being held in, but they didn’t try to eat their trainers.
The killer whale society and culture
As a species killer whales are very intelligent creatures.
They can teach one another acrobatic tricks, survival strategies, social skills and hunting methods.
These amazing animals spend the majority of their time hunting in cooperative groups, traveling together, playing and sharing their space and food with one another.
As many as four generations of killer whales can be seen swimming together in a single pod which suggests that the social bonds these animals carry are vital to maintaining a healthy society within the killer whale community.
Some researchers even say that the social structure of killer whales is comparable to the cultures of humans and elephants.
Their high level of intelligence, sophisticated social structure and strong community ethics makes these marine mammals not only fascinating creatures but also a well organized society that has a deep understanding of other animals and their relationship to those other animal species.