January 3, 2002 to July 13, 2002
Before the reunion with her family.
Back to current Springer reports
A73 (Springer) News Clips, Sightings Reports and Forum comments
Mixed in with Springer's story is the story of Luna (L98),
far away from his family.
Orphaned orca arrives at Canadian home
July 13, 2002 (KING5-TV) The jet-powered catamaran arrived just off of Telegraph Cove at Hanson Island, just north of Vancouver Island, B.C. around 6:30 p.m., after a 10-hour ride with Springer in a tank on board.
And dinner will be waiting for her when she arrives. The First Nations Tribes in Canada caught 75 live salmon, which now swim around in Springer’s new net pen.
The plan is to get Springer stabilized and prepared for the right opportunity to reunite her with her pod. Scientists want the A-24 pod of orcas to be within at least listening range for Springer.
Orca calls can travel over a distance of several miles, but scientists hope to get Springer close enough to where she can see the other orcas very quickly.
Second whale relocation effort underway
July 13, 2002 (KING5-TV) Biologists and researchers from Canada and the U.S. loaded an ophaned whale, popularly nicknamed Springer, into a holding tank aboard a high-speed catamaran early Saturday morning in an effort to reunite her with her family.
The whale appeared unperturbed by the procedure as a crane lifted her from her pen and into a waiting tank on the catamaran shortly after 6.
Young killer whale's journey home begins July 13, 2002 (Seattle P-I)
With clean bill of health, orca heading home Friday
July 10, 2002 (Seattle Times) Her skin problem is gone, her breath is fresh and her worms are history. Time for Puget Sound's orphaned Canadian orca to go home.
A-73 is scheduled to be lowered into a net pen in Telegraph Cove around 6 p.m. Friday. The reintroduction team then will wait for members of the A clan, a group with a similar acoustic dialect, to pass by on their way south from Alaska to their summer feeding grounds, said Lance Barrett-Lennard, a Vancouver Aquarium marine-mammal scientist and co-leader of the reintroduction's scientific team.
Friday is moving day for orca July 10, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Orphan orca will hop a boat home Friday July 10, 2002 (Bremerton Sun)
Springer To Begin Journey Home Friday
July 9, 2002 (KOMO-TV) Canadian fisheries officials made a big announcement Tuesday morning on moving Springer, the orphaned orca captured in Puget Sound.
They've set Friday morning as the time at which they will begin to move Springer to the waters off Vancouver Island.
Orphaned Orca To Head Home Friday July 9, 2002 (KIRO-TV)
Orphaned whale to be moved to B.C. Friday July 9, 2002 (KING-TV)
Orphan orca ready to head back home
July 3, 2002 (Seattle Times) An orphaned female orca has passed all medical tests and is ready to be reunited with her family in Canadian waters, a spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service said yesterday.
"It is time for her to go home," Brian Gorman said. "She's got a ticket, her bags are packed, and we're just waiting for word from the Canadians."
Gorman said U.S. researchers gave results of the orca's final medical tests to their Canadian counterparts over the weekend. She was found to have no communicable diseases, and an itchy skin condition and an internal condition that made her breath smell like paint thinner have cleared up.
Orphan orca healthy, ready to reunite with family July 3, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Springer Ready To Go Home July 3, 2002 (KOMO-TV)
Orphan Orca Healthy, Ready To Reunite with Family July 3, 2002 (KIRO-TV)
Sick whale going home to Canada July 3, 2002 (CNN)
Hoping Springer's Call Is Music To Pod's Ears
June 25, 2002 (KOMO-TV) "This little bay here would have a net stretched across it," says Dr. Paul Spong, from the aerial vantage point of Air 4.
He's talking about a small inlet called Dongchong Bay on Hanson Island off the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The plan is to put Springer in a small pen inside the bay, to wait for her orca family to arrive next month and then let her loose.
"That's a very distinctive call right there," acoustics researcher Helena Symonds refers to a whale call displayed on a computer acoustics program. They are the sounds of Springer, recorded in Puget Sound last winter. When Symonds first heard the recorded calls, "It just triggered something."
Symonds began sifting through the thousands of recorded orca sounds to find one bit of tape -- a whale call recorded in 1988.
And Symonds knew right away. Played back to back, even an untrained ear can hear the similarity. It's Springer and her mother, each recorded 14 years apart.
Like a fingerprint or DNA, in the orca world the sounds are definitive evidence of a connection, "because the acoustic traditions are passed on from the mother to the offspring," adds Symonds.
In addition to solving the mystery of who she is, that acoustic tradition will also be key to Springer's reunion. The hope is that she and her extended orca family will each recognize their common calls, and they will accept the orphaned orca back home.
Scientists wait for test results as Springer perks up
June 23, 2002 (Victoria Times Colonist) Springer the killer whale calf is staying in the U.S. for at least another week to wait for medical test results.
The two-year-old northern resident whale won't be in the clear until final test results for viruses and bacteria are in. Blood tests were taken Thursday and more tests are scheduled for Tuesday.
If she's healthy enough and does not have any medical problem that could endanger other whales, she will be moved to Johnstone Strait, off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.
Once there, Springer will be contained in a sheltered area to wait for the rest of her pod to show up this summer. It's hoped that her group will accept her and that she will want to rejoin them.
An acetone smell on her breath, which might have indicated a medical problem, has disappeared. Springer's caregivers are trying to stave off depression, which can lead to stress. Her favourite stick and a log are among items Fisheries Services staff are using to keep the whale interested in her surroundings and responsive.
Baby orca's health is better, and experts are upbeat
June 22, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The bad breath has faded, the worms are going and the orphaned baby orca of Puget Sound looks healthy enough to be shipped back to her native Canada within a month, federal fisheries officials said yesterday.
The orca's handlers also think they know what's causing the pesky skin irritation that has plagued the young killer whale -- and it's probably nothing that a reunion with her long-lost family won't cure.
"She's responsive, she's bright, she's alert and she's sensitive to a lot of things in her environment," said an upbeat Dr. Pete Schroeder, a veterinarian treating the orca. "She has pretty close to a clean bill of health now. ... Her best move now would be to take a trip north."
Two tests have also shown that the orca does not have an inborn genetic defect affecting her metabolic system, as National Marine Fisheries Service scientists originally feared. That notion stemmed from a chemical-like odor on the breath of the whale, which remains unexplained.
Orca's fate turns on new tests June 22, 2002 (Seattle Times)
Springer Could Be Moved To Canada In 2 Weeks
June 21, 2002 (KOMO-TV) Some encouraging news about Springer, the orphaned orca. She's looking healthy enough her rescuers say she could be back in her native Canadian waters in as little as two weeks.
But the good news is that Springer has a virtual clean bill of health -- her skin condition is improving, and she has no genetic disorder. If the next test results come back clean, she'll be on her way to Canada.
No Date Set For Orca Move to Canada June 21, 2002 (KIRO-TV)
Remote bay awaits orphan orca
June 21, 2002 (Tacoma News-Tribune) The isolated cove, about the size of a small lake, may soon become the temporary home of the ailing orphan orca caught last week in Puget Sound. The whale that scientists call A-73 is the focus of the world's first attempt to rescue, heal and return a lost whale to her native waters.
Veterinarians who examined the orca the day of the capture said she was skinny by whale standards, but preliminary medical test results suggest she suffers from nothing that might prevent her eventual release. However, Canadian officials say they won't bring her north until the medical evaluation is complete, which probably won't happen until at least next Thursday, said Michelle McCombs, a spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Jim McBain, the SeaWorld veterinarian who helped capture the orphan whale, has said he believes the 2-year-old could be adopted by a maternal female in the northern resident group.
No Date Set For Springer's Move To Canada June 21, 2002 (KOMO-TV)
Springer Gets Big Appetite
June 20, 2002 (KOMO-TV) After days of light nibbling, a solitary young killer whale captured in busy central Puget Sound last week ate 10 salmon Thursday in her net pen at a federal research station on the Kitsap Peninsula.
Thursday's intake totaled about 50 pounds - getting closer to the 60 to 80 pounds a day recommended to increase her weight.
Test results from blood and other samples taken from A-73 last week may not be available until Tuesday, Gorman said. Of special concern are tests for communicable disease that could pose barriers to her release in Canadian waters.
Preliminary reports don't show anything alarming, he said.
"She's doing well and she's in good physical shape. ... She's in relatively good health," Gorman said.
Once she's certified healthy, the plan is to move her to a netted-off cove on the east side of Canada's Vancouver Island, where her pod spends summers - arriving as early as late June or as late as August.
Orca getting used to pen, eating more
June 20, 2002 (Seattle Times) The whale is eating "maybe three or four fish a day rather than the one or two she was eating originally," said Brian Gorman with the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is overseeing the orca's care.
The fish — live Atlantic salmon donated by a nearby fish farm — weigh about 5 pounds each, so her intake is still well below the 60 to 80 pounds a day recommended to increase her weight.
"No one here seems terribly worried about that," Gorman said. "They all seem to feel that when you move a whale to a new environment," a certain adjustment period is to be expected.
Getting Our First Peek At Springer In Her New Home
June 19, 2002 (KOMO-TV) Biologists say after a week in captivity, the killer whale calf is active and alert but she is not eating as much as expected.
"No one's been in the water with her since those original divers came out," says Barre, "we've really been taking a step back, little by little, less people."
The NMFS says it doesn't expect to release any specific information about Springer's medical condition for several days, and still has no time frame for reintroducing the killer whale to her native waters in Canada.
At 09:36 AM 6/16/02 -0700, Ralph wrote:
The fundraising effort to help A 73 is probably the best cooperation that Karen and I have ever seen amongst our whale advocate friends. I would urge everyone to put aside their own special interests at this time, and support the fund. It is very important that we are all working together.
Now is not the time for individual fundraising efforts to support one
cause or another. Now is the time to work closely with NMFS and all of
our cooperating groups to assist this whale. Three cheers to each of the groups who are cooperating to build the common fund.
Dear Ralph and all,
Although Orca Network is not among the founding members of the coalition to raise funds for A73, we support the cause of reuniting Springer with her family wholeheartedly and have distributed the press release announcing the fund to our sightings list. We want to see Springer transported north to meet up with her pod and community. Hopefully, with a year's growth since her last association with them she will be competent to keep up and assume a role as a member of the community.
It's great to see the human community get together to help A73. Hopefully this will lead to future cooperative endeavors, which we would like to be a part of. And while we have engaged in educational efforts regarding Springer and L98's situations, such as our Ferry Naturalist Program on the Vashon Ferry and the A73 forum on our website, we do not feel comfortable enough with the status of the current rescue operation to engage in direct fundraising for a project that could ultimately lead to Springer's incarceration in a tank.
Our hesitation with the Springer project as it is currently unfolding is primarily due to concern that A73's capture was carried out to address medical issues prior to any plan being developed for her relocation to Johnstone Strait. This places the ultimate credibility in the hands of marine park veterinarians, specifically Sea World's head vet. As we have learned from the history of the Corky and Lolita campaigns, and the horrific captures of thirty years ago, marine park vets are subject to the policies of their employers. Sea World director of Zoological Operations Brad Andrews denounced the Keiko project because "the ocean is a cold, dark, ferocious place." The marine park bias is that captivity in a tank is a much better place for any orca. The industry's PR battle to label Keiko as a carrier of viral pathogens reached absurd heights. We fear that Dr. McBain's opinions will fall in line with this pro-captivity bias.
Since Springer first chose her location near the Vashon ferry dock we have heard that she must be seriously ill. First she was said to be starving, but when she repeatedly toyed with fish around boats and swallowed them with apparent relish, that theory was discarded. Her ketone breath didn't go away, but the second theory to explain it, a genetic disorder, was dispelled when she obligingly yielded a blood sample in May. Some observers have reported the smell of her breath seems to have improved recently.
Springer's skin is discolored in patches that seem to move from place to place. We are told it irritates her and she scratches on logs to itch her skin. The original interpretation for the scratching was that she missed the tactile contact with her mother. Why should that be less true today? Many young orca calves have the same "whale pox," as you'll find on the Southern community ID guide on the Center for Whale Research web site. J37, born last year, looks much like A73, as does K33. The jet-black skin tone often doesn't appear for several years.
She has intestinal parasites. Marine mammals typically have worms. Her condition at this time may be worse than normal, but there's no reason to believe it's getting worse, and it certainly doesn't seem to slow her down or dampen her appetite. At 1240 pounds she could use a little weight, but that's not life-threatening.
In the absence of any symptoms of serious illness, her behavior would be the best guide to her health, and she has been very active in the past few weeks. Long dives, tail lobs, fast swimming and course changes were the norm until the capture. Those six breaches in the hour before the capture spoke volumes.
Several researchers we have spoken with do not believe the situation requires medical intervention. So it's a mystery to us why the chorus of outspoken opinions have almost uniformly concluded that Springer is dangerously ill and needs to be captured for evaluation and treatment of these supposed diseases. With that unfounded rationale for the capture already in place, any vet's opinion built on that belief will sound believable.
News stories list all the things that could prevent A73 from going back to Canada or the wild, and are vague about Canada's criteria for accepting her back into Canadian waters:
"Her condition is a concern" said veterinarian McBain. "This is not a robust killer whale."
"It's not like everybody can cheer," McBain said. "It's like running a hurdle race. We're past this hurdle and now we're on to another."
"To me, this is a big question now -- is she going to know she's a killer whale and go with those animals?" said McBain, the vet.
"...But that chain of events [reintroduction] is far from certain. Canadian officials have said they will not allow the whale to be returned to their waters unless they are convinced A-73 is free of communicable diseases. If they are not convinced, or if the whale's health declines, the National Marine Fisheries Service would have to decide what to do. Such a situation is unprecedented, and Lohn refused to speculate on how it might be resolved."
A73's family tend to depart from Johnstone Strait in early fall, but...
"Her health is so poor right now there's no way she will be ready that quickly," said Bain.
Bain says it could take a long as two months of treatment before the whale is well enough for release."
" Michelle McCombs, spokeswoman for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said it's too early to tell whether the orca will be transported back to the waters off Vancouver Island.
"We have two concerns: the safety of the whale and the safety of her pod. If she has, say, a pathogen, we may not be able to reunite her with the pod."
Springer is in a pen now, on the premise that she's gravely ill with some unspecified disease that could take weeks to evaluate and much longer to treat. Some of her extended family have now reappeared in Johnstone Strait, but they'll be gone in a few short months. Will Springer have to spend the winter in a pen?
In the meantime, could the loss of exercise, and the loss of her free will, adversely affect Springer's health, justifying further confinement? Confinement itself justifies further confinement, on the basis of habituation, that she would forget where she came from. In the seven years of the Lolita campaign we've learned that the policy of the marine park industry and its employees, including veterinarians, is "once in captivity, always in captivity." We understand that the Orphan Orca Fund has stated that no funds will be used to support any activities associated with preparing A73 for removal to an aquarium or marine park. Our concern is that those plans are already well underway.
There are no clear contingency plans on the part of NMFS or DFO as to what action will be taken if the veterinarians now in charge of determining her health status decide she is unfit to be a wild whale, or if Canada doesn't feel it's safe for her to be returned to Canadian waters, or if for some reason the reintroduction to her pod does not work. This scares us, because there ARE at least three marine parks who have already proposed plans to accept A73 if things don't work out, or if she would need a "long term rehab" (ie, life in captivity, which could result in a huge increase in revenues for any facility that can get this now famous orca calf).
We hope we are wrong. We hope that our collective vigilance may help influence events toward Springer's reunification with her family. We will remain watchful and let the governments and scientists involved on both sides of the border know that captivity should not ever be considered an option for this young calf.
We appreciate the time and effort put forth by all the non-profit organizations, NMFS and DFO staff, volunteers, and researchers that have been involved with Springer's predicament from the beginning, and hope we can all continue to do our part to ensure the best possible outcome for Springer - may she quickly find her way back home to her family....
Howard Garrett and Susan Berta
Orphaned orca’s kin could act as mother
June 15, 2002 (Seattle Times) Researchers who have been tracking orcas for three decades will try to exploit their understanding of genealogies, including mothers, grandmothers and aunts, to give "A-73" — the orphaned whale also known as Springer — the best odds of finding a relative willing to adopt her back into the wild.
"We're all trying to get her back up north, and that will be the focus for the next couple months," Bain said yesterday.
Unlike Washington's southern residents, who are organized in J, K and L pods, the northern resident community of about 200 orcas is broken down into clans and pods.
The clans — A, G and R — share their own types of calls.
In the A clan, the biggest with more than 100 whales, are nine pods, including three A pods, numbered A-1, A-4 and A-5.
The A-5 pod members tend to stretch out the last notes of their vocalizations, like someone from the South, speaking slowly, said Bain, a University of Washington orca biologist.
The A-1 members have short terminal notes, speaking fast like New Yorkers. And the A-4 members sound like they have an echo in their vocalizations.
U.S. ocean policy 'not working'
June 14, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Some say orca rescue is example of an irrational marine action.
Our stewardship of the ocean, as both a natural habitat and a provider of natural resources, is about as disjointed and arbitrary as it can get, said William Ruckelshaus, a member of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy meeting this week in Seattle.
"But if we're going to rescue whales, we need to pay attention not to individual members of the species, but to the whole ecosystem in which they live," said Fletcher, who said a first step should include better enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act.
"How we ought to do some of these things needs to be directed at the watershed level," he said. "The current policy is still command and control."
Capture of orphaned orca goes smoothly off Vashon Island
June 14, 2002 (Seattle Times) It would have been a textbook orca capture, if a textbook for such a thing existed.
"It was almost a nonevent," said Jim McBain, a veterinarian for SeaWorld's parent company. "We're relieved that we now have her in the pen, but we're still worried about the next step."
"Her condition is a concern," said veterinarian McBain. "This is not a robust killer whale."
Capture of orca goes smoothly
June 14, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) "Everything went as if the animal knew what to do," said Jim McBain, a Sea World veterinarian who assisted the team. "She handled it well. She was very cooperative."
The dramatic capture sets the stage for the sickly whale to be nursed back to health for several weeks and returned to her whale family in Canada. But whether that joyous reunion will occur remains far from certain.
She will stay in her 40-by-40-by-15-foot pen here for two weeks. Then she may be moved to a somewhat larger pen nearby. If she receives a clean bill of health, she could be transported back to Canada for a midsummer reunion with her long-lost whale family, or pod.
But that chain of events is far from certain.
Canadian officials have said they will not allow the whale to be returned to their waters unless they are convinced A-73 is free of communicable diseases. If they are not convinced, or if the whale's health declines, the National Marine Fisheries Service would have to decide what to do. Such a situation is unprecedented, and Lohn refused to speculate on how it might be resolved.
Orca arrives safely at rehabilitation site June 14, 2002 (Vancouver Sun)
Orca orphan begins journey to Canada June 14, 2002 (Toronto Globe and Mail)
First-Rate Rescue June 14, 2002 (Bremerton Sun)
June 14, 2002
We also saw Springer on Thursday, before and during the capture. In the hour before the capture, we watched her do half a dozen breaches or half breaches. She is an amazing little whale. I am still too conflicted to write clearly about it right now; but all indications are that she is doing well and already eating. Let's keep Springer in our hearts and thoughts and let her know we wish her well~
Orphaned orca captured, placed in net pen
June 13, 2002 (KING5 TV) Operation orca proved successful Thursday after marine researchers roped and captured a distressed two-year old whale and placed her into a net pen near Manchester, Wash.
The whale, dubbed Springer is to be nursed back to health, relocated and released near her family in the waters off Vancouver Island.
Springer briefly struggled, but eventually calmed down and let scientists place her into a sling and hoist her onto the barge a little before 2 p.m.
Springer delivered safely to pen June 13, 2002 (CBC)
Crews successfully capture orphaned orca June 13, 2002 (KATU-TV Portland)
June 13, 2002
This afternoon, from 1 to 3 pm, I stood on the Vashon ferry dock,
watching the boats position themselves to capture Springer. There were
4 or 5 helicopters in the air. There was a big boat with a crane, 2-3
medium-sized boats and a few small boats. The coast guard boat stayed
on the perimeter of the area. The dark boat that has been monitoring
Springer from the beginning also stayed on the perimeter. There was a
small police boat as well. I didn't see any private boats hovering
around. The ferry took a different route today, swinging to the north
of its normal course going from Fauntleroy to Vashon.
Two small boats slowly moved to either side of Springer and it looked
like divers got into the water and put a sling/net under and around her.
It was hard to see from the dock. A big boat with a crane slowly made
its way toward to 2 smaller boats. The crane hook was connected to the
sling and Springer hoisted aboard. This all happened while the crane
was facing toward Seattle rather than Vashon. So, even those with the
most powerful binoculars weren't able to see the hoist. Many people
surrounded Springer on the big boat.
The big boat with the crane slowly ramped up its speed, moving toward
Southworth. As it passed by the Vashon ferry dock, it was travelling at
a good speed. We couldn't see Springer from that angle.
The operation seemed to go very smoothly.
There were many large cameras and media people recording the event. The
atmosphere on the dock was subdued. Someone burned sweetgrass. Another
person quietly drummed. I feel very sad. And I am hopeful that this
action of attempting to return Springer to her native pod is what
Springer wants and what A pod wants.
May we demonstrate that we've learned from past experiences and continue
to see Springer wild and free and surrounded by a loving family.
Baby orca faces grave danger in today's attempt at capture
June 13, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) "This is not only fraught with uncertainties, but it is relatively high-risk," said Bob Lohn, the agency's regional administrator. "There is a chance that stress or pressure or unforeseen events may result in the loss of life for this orca."
One plus for the capture team is the fact that A-73 has become habituated to humans and boats. In fact, it appears to make this capture unique, said Joe Olson, president of the Puget Sound chapter of the American Cetacean Society, the oldest whale-advocacy group in the world.
The last of the Puget Sound orcas remaining in captivity is Lolita, which is housed at the Miami Seaquarium. A "Free Lolita" campaign based in Whidbey Island for years has tried to persuade the owners of Seaquarium, Coral Gables-based Wometco Enterprises, to let the orca return to Puget Sound. But they refuse.
As old friends, Tlingits bid farewell to orphaned orca June 13, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Wayward whale shows she's ready to be caught
June 13, 2002 (The Olympian)
Orca successfully lured into pen (no longer online)
June 12, 2002 (KING5 TV) On Wednesday, whale researchers pushed a portable net pen to the north end of Vashon Island, where the orphaned Orca, called Springer by researchers, has been residing. Researchers had hoped to conduct a practice run of Springer's capture on Wednesday, coaxing her into the pen.
Springer seemed to enjoy her interaction with the researchers.
The "wet run" proved successful Wednesday afternoon when researchers, petting and scratching her on her side, successfully coaxed Springer into the pen. Because the nets were not in place yet, Springer swam in and then quickly swam out of the pen - a victorious moment for researchers, who will attempt to lure Spring again back into the pen Thursday. Except this time with the net.
When killer whales enter the strait, Lohn said, there’s a sense of “joyous reunion” as they squeak and call out, often leaping almost completely out of the water.
The goal is to release A-73 there as they arrive, giving her “a chance to bond with them at the time they seem to be celebrating among themselves.”
Rescuers plan to isolate orca June 12, 2002 (Bremerton Sun)
Concern for B.C. orphan whale
June 12, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) As efforts begin to capture an orphaned Canadian killer whale hanging around a Seattle ferry dock, concerns are increasing about a young orphan male going it alone on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Both young animals are getting dangerously friendly with boats.
Fisheries Department spokeswoman Michelle McCombs is urging boaters to stay away from the animal, noting regulations prohibit disturbing or harassing whales.
L-98 is being monitored by scientists and is in good health, she said.
As for a family reunion, it is not known where the rest of the L-pod is at this time of year.
More about Luna (L98)
Baby orca's rescue begins tomorrow
June 12, 2002 (Seattle Times) Foster and federal marine officials outlined in detail yesterday how they plan to round up the orphaned orca off Vashon Island in the first tangible step toward moving her back to her community of fellow killer whales east of Vancouver Island.
Vets should have lab results for A-73 in three days, some within hours, but she will be held in Manchester for at least two weeks while she is nursed back to health. She has a skin pox, worms and a possible metabolic problem, and the capture will be the first chance for her to get a proper examination, said David Huff, veterinarian for the Vancouver Aquarium Science Centre and a consultant to Janet Whaley, a fisheries-service vet out from Silver Spring, Md.
Fisheries service hopes to keep gawkers at bay while capturing orca
June 12, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Relocation planned to get orphaned orca back to home waters
June 11, 2002 (Seattle Times) Federal marine officials are planning to make a much-anticipated attempt Thursday to pull an orphaned orca from Puget Sound near Vashon Island and begin a long and unpredictable journey aimed at reintroducing the killer whale to her native Canadian waters.
The ailing orca will be secured by her tail with a rope, lifted by a sling to an awaiting boat and whisked to a sea pen at the National Marine Fisheries Service's field station in Manchester, Kitsap County. Close to a dozen people and several boats will be involved, said Brian Gorman, a fisheries-service spokesman.
Orphaned orca to be moved Thursday June 12, 2002 (KING-5 TV) (no longer online)
Orca getting cozy with pleasure boats June 11, 2002 (KING-5 TV)
Whale Experts Prepare For Capturing Orphaned Orca June 11, 2002 (KOMO TV)
Orphaned Orca to be Moved Thursday June 11, 2002 (KIRO TV)
NMFS plans to try to capture orphan orca next week
June 8, 2002 (KING5-TV) The federal government says it has set next week as the time when it plans to try to capture a young female killer whale that has been swimming near Vashon Island in Puget Sound, west of Seattle.
The plan is to capture the whale and then place her on a barge for a quick trip to a net pen in Kitsap County, which is west of Seattle.
A spokesman with the National Marine Fisheries Service - Brian Gorman - says the young female is to stay in the pen 10 to 14 days for treatment of some health problems and for tests to make sure she doesn't carry any serious health problems back when scientists try to reunite her with her pod.
Gorman says plans for the move to Canada are still being developed, but the initial plan is to keep her in an inlet that has been netted off "so she can swim freely and maintain muscle tone and wait for her pod to appear."
And you thought all that orca whale coverage was just a fluke
June 7, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) IT’S BEEN TWO years since we basked in the aura of Dr. T.V. Skreen, celebrated consultant to the broadcast industry and part-time base-running coach for the Seattle Mariners.
We caught up with him at a fund-raiser for the Rampant Fescue Project, which is working to restore prairie grass to my back yard and other sensitive ecosystems. Skreen was the guest speaker, and after his illuminating talk – “An Orca in Every Newscast” – he was gracious enough to sit down for a few minutes and talk TV with me.
Here is an excerpt of that conversation.
TV GUY: Love your necktie, Dr. Skreen. Is that a “Free Willy” motif?
DR. SKREEN: Thanks. Yes, it is. Thought it would be appropriate to the topic of my remarks today.
Friendly Luna looking for his pod (no longer online)
June 6, 2002 (CH News - Victoria BC) A two-year-old orca known as Luna has been swimming off the west coast of Vancouver Island for about a year, and CH TV's Jonathan Bartlett visited to find out more.
Luna, as area residents have named him, is a five-metre- long orca. He showed up in Nootka Sound near Gold River last June.
Killer whales normally swim with their families or pods their entire lives. Marine biologists speculate that Luna was separated from his mother and has decided to stay and wait for his pod to return.
He has become acclimatized to humans, however, and scientists worry that could pose a risk of Luna losing his natural instinct for the wild.
Luna (or L-98, his official name) is a member of L-Pod, a Southern resident group of orcas who frequent Nootka water in the summertime.
More about Luna (L98)
June 5, 2002
My information is that A73 is not going downhill, is very active, alert and shows complete control. She's not behaving like she is ill. I can't give you my source because he doesn't want to be dragged into it, but his word is sufficient for me and outweighs the Bobs, the Fisheries people and especially the vets. You are a bit off when you say that they are under government supervision. It's important to remember that they are employees of the marine park industry. Check out the Captive Science Page where you'll find that six marine park vets co-authored a paper attesting that Keiko had "the first case of cutaneous papillomaviral-like papillomatosis in a killer whale." This was purely a bogey-man scare tactic to try to prevent Keiko from ever approaching his home waters. It was peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Marine Mammalogy. But it was totally false, as discovered by six vets appointed by the USDA to examine Keiko.
The urge to find some kind of transmittable pathogen is trained into marine park vets whenever a captive whale is a candidate for release. They assume total authority once a whale is placed under their care. Every statement from Fisheries and DFO mentions that although reintroduction is the desired outcome, the project "could take certain other paths." I'm in favor of the idea of transport to rejoin her family, although I can see the objection that she may already be in the best spot for finding fish, but if the capture is for medical examination and treatment, as Brain G. says, then her future will be controlled by the vets, and I've never heard of a vet that would let an orca go free. But maybe DFO requires medical intervention before she'll get a visa.
It's probably moot, but think the boat/flute follow idea might work, although A73 seems to have a lot of fidelity to her spot, so it may not work. But it could be tested with no harm done. I just think she needs exercise and company more than anything. Prayer can help too. This will probably get even more interesting.
June 5, 2002
Thanks for your thoughtful e-mail. One of the problems with this whale is that she's not in the best of health. We know she has a worsening skin condition and some form of ketosis -- a metabolic problem -- but we don't know the cause of the latter. Also, since our ultimate goal is to return her to her Canadian waters, we have to make certain that she doesn't have some other medical condition that would make such a return problematic, for example a disease that could affect her pod.. Frankly, this all means that there is no way we could return this killer whale to Canada without a thorough medical assessment and period of treatment. In addition, her physical condition isn't the best, and irrespective of any medical problems she may have, we need to restore her to vigorous physical condition before releasing her.
In other words, we need to capture this killer whale and place her in a net pen for at least a couple of weeks so we can have easy and safe access to her for a period of assessment, treatment and conditioning. This is what killer whale experts from both the U.S. and Canada have advised and this, in fact, is part of our capture plan.
I appreciate your interest in this juvenile whale, however, and am pleased that you took the time to write us.
May 26, 2002
[Howard Garrett/Susan Berta]
I wonder what the contingency plans for the project are, in case the vets determine that she is too ill to release? It's easy to imagine that she will be determined to be sick, since marine park vets, most likely Dave Huff and Jim McBain, and maybe Pete Schroeder, will make those determinations. I would surmise that they have a predisposition toward long-term care in a facility, like OCA, and would be inclined to recommend that such a decision be made. It would be very difficult for NMFS or DFO to independently side with the ngo's that would say no, she should be returned to her habitat and left there even if she doesn't join up with A's and doesn't appear to be healthy. Somehow NMFS and DFO need to publicly agree that they will not, under any circumstances, authorize her delivery to any tank. That really needs to be stipulated up front before we would feel comfortable asking people for contributions.
We aren't clear about the next move by the ngo's. Does there need to be discussion of the backup plan in case the treatment fails and/or the reintroduction fails? At this stage, our feeling is that there are still some questions that need to be answered by NMFS and DFO to really put the fund-raising in high gear.
Risky rescue of ailing orca 'worth doing'
May 25, 2002 (Seattle Times) After months of deliberation and anxiety, federal officials yesterday said they plan to capture an orphaned orca in Puget Sound and attempt to reunite it with its native pod of Canadian killer whales.
The fisheries service rescue plan would run in three phases:
• The Rescue: The orca would be lured into a net pen. If she can't be lured, she will be caught with a sling or other device.
• The Rehabilitation: A-73 would spend at least two weeks in the pen somewhere in Puget Sound while being evaluated and treated. Veterinarians are already well aware that she has a skin condition, worms and an acetonelike breath that typically suggests a metabolism problem but has so far defied analysis. Some observers say they've seen her skin condition creeping into her blowhole lately, risking a hard-to-treat system infection if it reaches her lungs.
If the fisheries service and Canadian authorities feel A-73 can be released without harming her native A pod, she then will be transported to Johnstone Strait, roughly halfway up the northeast side of Vancouver Island.
Plan to relocate orca called 'high-risk'
May 25, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Orca to be captured, returned to Canada
May 24, 2002 (KING5 TV) The National Marine Fisheries Service decided Friday to capture an ailing orphan orca that's been languishing in the Puget Sound for several months and return her to the Canadian waters of her native pod.
Officials of the service said that while it would be a high-risk operation, it would be best to remove her from the busy waters off Vashon Island as soon as possible. After a few weeks of rehabilitation, the whale would be relocated to Canada's Johnstone Strait, the summer home of her pod.
NMFS considers capturing whale and moving it to Canada (no longer online)
May 21, 2002 (Seattle P-I) Scientists monitoring the ailing, orphaned killer whale who's been in central Puget Sound since at least mid-January recommended Monday that she be captured for a more hands-on assessment of her health, and then moved near her family in Canada.
But the government is still weighing whether to intervene at all. The National Marine Fisheries Service, which arranged Monday's teleconference with the advisory group, expects to make a decision soon, said spokeswoman Janet Sears.
An earlier intervention plan had involved a three-stage move in net pens - capture, a stint near Vancouver for care by Vancouver Aquarium veterinary personnel and finally relocation in Johnstone Strait for eventual release.
Monday's recommendation would eliminate the middle step and simplify the process.
Panel Recommends Capturing Orphaned Orca
May 20, 2002 (KIRO-TV) An advisory panel of whale experts recommends than an orphaned orca in Puget Sound be captured and held in a pen for medical tests.
Janet Sears with the National Marine Fisheries Service says
the federal agency may make a decision soon on the capture. It's still weighing the possible benefits with the risk of capture.
Listening to the orcas
May 18, 2002 (Everett Herald) Whale researcher Alexandra Morton is clear about what she thinks should happen to A-73, the 2-year-old calf whose pod spends summers east of Vancouver Island: "I have friends who are willing to pick up the orca (and) within six hours she'll be back with her pod (where) nature will take its course."
It can be done without more studies, without containment facilities and without condemning the orca to life in a confined facility, she said.
Blood test clears orca of genetic flaw
May 17, 2002 (Seattle Times) - Blood tests on the ailing orphaned orca in Puget Sound show it does not have a genetic disorder that might have prevented it from being reintroduced to its Canadian waters this summer.
Adding to the pressure on the service was U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who yesterday urged Bob Lohn, fisheries-service regional director, to create a "definitive action plan and commit to a timetable."
No genetic disorder detected in orca, raising hopes of pod reunion
May 17, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Tests show orca doesn't have genetic disorder
May 16, 2002 (KING5 TV) (no longer online)
B.C. gives more time on orca
May 16, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Aquarium President John Nightingale warned that unless the whale is captured and her medical problems remedied, "It's going to die, day by day, on the evening news."
But the fisheries service said it is waiting for blood-test results to reveal whether the orca, known as A-73 as well as its official nickname, Springer, has an incurable genetic disorder. The results could take until early next week.
"Once the whale is captured, if it is subsequently discovered that the whale has a chronic, untreatable health problem that would preclude her from being reunited, then we would be faced with ... a choice between two equally repugnant alternatives: Put her in an aquarium for permanent treatment, or at least permanent capture; or somehow return her to Puget Sound, where she's been all along," said Brian Gorman, the fisheries service spokesman in Seattle.
Time running out for orca's rescue May 16, 2002 (Vancouver Province) (no longer online)
B.C. aquarium: Decide by today on orca — or else
May 15, 2002 (Seattle Times) The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre has given U.S. officials until today to decide if they will attempt to rescue the ailing orphaned orca off Vashon Island and one more week to capture her.
Otherwise, aquarium officials say, it will withdraw an offer to help bring the female orca back to Canada in an attempt to reintroduce her to her native pod
Early results show she does not have diabetes or morbillivirus, a deadly, hard-to-treat virus. She is anemic, probably from blood lost to parasites in her gut, said Barrett-Lennard, and has a high white-blood-cell count, likely from an infection.
But results have yet to come in for a suspected genetic metabolic problem that would be treatable but incurable. Those results could come in a day or two.
Vancouver Aquarium wants decision on orphaned orca by Wednesday (no longer online) May 15, 2002 (KING5 TV)
A responsibility to save or leave alone?
May 12, 2002 (Seattle Times) "I don't think our road is going to be an easy one," said Brian Gorman, spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), "because we have to make some tough decisions. I don't think the prospects for this whale are very sunny."
Statistically, an orca in captivity lives a shorter life than an orca in the wild, said Toni Frohoff, a Bainbridge Island resident and marine-mammal consultant for the Humane Society of the United States. If captivity is an option, she said, it is better to let A-73 die in the wild.
"We believe that if we put the animal in a tank, we would still be watching the animal die," she said. "It would just be a more prolonged death."
"At this stage, I think they should just leave it alone," said Munro, the former secretary of state.
Scientists check orphaned orca's blood (no longer online)
May 8, 2002 (KING5-TV) From a government boat, scientists and a veterinarian began the job of drawing blood from the orca that has lived in a stretch near Vashon Island for nearly 4 months.
The idea is to get a blood sample from her dorsal fin – enough blood to determine if her strange breath, described as smelling like paint thinner, is due to a genetic problem.
“To determine if this whale has an inborn metabolic problem that precludes her from returning to her pod,” said Brian Gorman, National Marine Fisheries Service.
“I can't over-emphasize that to capture this animal prematurely could mean a one-way trip to a display facility – and I don't think anybody wants that,” said Gorman.
Advisory panel wants orphaned orca's ills treated; U.S. says no
May 7, 2002 (Seattle Times) Federal officials are standing firm on a decision to leave alone the ailing orphaned orca off Vashon Island, despite the clear consensus of an advisory panel that something should be done soon to rehabilitate the animal and return her to her native waters in British Columbia.
"I don't anticipate anything happening soon even though there is a contingent of people that think we're temporizing and dithering," said Brian Gorman, spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service. "We're not."
Meanwhile, attempting to rescue, rehabilitate and reintroduce the whale carries several risks of failure, Gorman said. The whale could be captured and turn out to have a chronic metabolism problem, barring reintroduction to her native pod. Officials then might feel they have no choice but to put her in an aquarium.
NMFS discourages whale watching (no longer online)
May 4, 2002 (Bremerton Sun) - Christopher Dunagan
With the start of boating season today, the National Marine Fisheries Service urges people not to seek out the orphan killer whale that has been staying in Central Puget Sound since mid-January. If the young whale is spotted, boaters are urged to keep moving slowly past
and not stop or drift within 400 yards of the animal, said Brian Gorman of NMFS.
A flyer with more details can be downloaded from the Website: www.whale-museum.org/Press/SpringerFlyer.pdf.
The Whale Museum's Soundwatch boater education program will be on the water
this weekend to keep people back from the whale. Anyone who sees a boat too
close to any killer whale may call the National Enforcement Hotline, (800)
Meanwhile, whale-watchers are encouraged to look for lone orca calf from the
Vashon Island-Fauntleroy ferry.
A marine naturalist from the group Orca Network, Judy Lochrie, is scheduled to be on the 1:10 ferry from Fauntleroy and make several trips back and forth.
Experts urge capturing baby orca; federal agency not yet convinced
May 2, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Increasingly worried about the physical condition of the orphaned baby orca off Vashon Island, a scientific panel advising federal fisheries officials says it's time to capture the killer whale at least long enough to get a blood sample.
And she will probably need some medical treatment, the scientists say.
But the National Marine Fisheries Service says it has no such intention.
April 30, 2002
[Howard Garrett and Susan Berta]
I know you are besieged with opinions on how to behave responsibly toward A73, so I'll be brief.
In our opinion, A73 is not in danger and should not be restrained, at least until late June when she should probably be whisked up to Johnstone St. and dropped off to meet up with the A4s. Any restraint at this point would only decrease her activity level and make her more dependent on people.
She needs maximum exercise both to maintain high metabolism and thus immunity, and to build her stamina in hopes she will be able to keep up with her family whenever the moment arrives. After she is given that chance, if she doesn't swim off in the sunset with A4s, she should be left to roam as a lone orca, unless there is a clear and present health or nuisance danger.
Absent a clear health problem, I don't see much value in holding her in a pen at this point merely to run tests or give medication. The detriment far outweighs the benefit.
Thanks for this chance to comment.
April 24, 2002
For the record, I was one of the original members of the Cetacean Freedom
Network, and have established SeaWolf as a group opposed to the capture of
orcas for display.
We will not accept the fact that a northern resident orca be left in
foreign waters away from her natural home, particularly when we can learn
so much about rehab and release, including that returning an orca to native
waters, is possible with this situation. It may be the precedent needed to
rehab and release other whales.
If she remains down here, she will become a commercial investment in whale
tours, plus she will be stressed by dozens of boats, and she will
eventually be hit, just like others of her group (A-pod) have been hit
before. I will stress that SeaWolf, a completely non-profit volunteer
operation, stands to gain no income (nor do we want to) from this
situation. Unlike other groups in Seattle, we have not made any efforts to
raise funds from this whale.
Your opinions are just as valid as ours, but I suggest you try to make an
objective assessment of the work that the groups monitoring Springer are
doing. I would also suggest that, from the meetings in Seattle, the
majority of the public seems to want her returned to where she belongs, and
not remain here where the warmer weather will turn her home into a virtual
Thanks for your comments.
April 17, 2002
[Paul Spong and Helena Symonds]
First I want to say that I very much appreciate the concerns for A73 that so many of you have expressed, and the time which you've so willingly put into helping her. But beyond that I feel I need to say that I'm still quite worried about Springer and the outcome of this episode. If she remains in her present circumstances she will clearly face increasing jeopardy, and if the worst happens, she and we will have lost a great chance. Even if she is not inadvertently injured or killed by boat traffic, A73 faces the risk of becoming a human plaything, a toy, if she remains where she is.
So I see leaving her where she is as a very poor option. My preference, by far, is for a carefully thought out plan to be put in place which will see Springer returned to her home waters and her community. I realise that doing so does not guarantee success, but it at least gives A73 a chance to continue a normal life and make her own contribution to the continuity of her heritage. Giving her that chance, in my view, is what we should do and all we should do. Getting her that chance is going to require cooperation among very diverse groups, some of which are unused to working together and may feel reticent about doing so. I can only plead that personal issues and rivalries and points of view be set aside in the interests of the common goal of bringing A73 home. Working together I know we can do it, and that collectively we'll be able to look back on this remarkable occasion with pleasure at our involvement and satisfaction with the outcome. But time is also of the essence here - clear decisions need to be made and a clear course of action charted soon. So let's decide, and get on with it.
Thank you all.
Here are some comments about A73 that we hope will be useful... much of this you already know, but we thought to list some of the obvious things anyway.
1. A73 (Springer) is a member of the A4 pod of the northern resident community of B.C. orcas. Her mum, A45, disappeared in 2001 & is presumed dead. Her grandmother, A24, was still alive as of the end of the 2001 season, as were other close relatives that A73 knows.
2. Orcas are social animals, their closest bonds are with their closest kin, and these bonds last throughout the lifetimes of individuals - members of resident orca families are not known to leave their immediate family as long as it remains intact. When a mother dies, her surviving offspring associate primarily with each other, and with other close relatives.
3. During A73's early life, she & her mum frequently associated closely with their cousins A35 & her 3 offspring, one of whom (A70, Sunny) is just a year older than A73. If A73 joins another group, it will most likely be the A35s.
4. As a northern resident orca, A73's natural place is with other northern residents, especially her remaining family. She still retains her matrilineal vocal traditions. She is far from home in her present location. How she got there is a mystery, but what we do know tells us that Springer is a survivor, that she must have a strong will to live.
5. Prior to A73's arrival, northern resident orcas had never been seen as far south as the Seattle area. The chances of her reconnecting with other northern residents if she stays where she is are very slim. Likewise, the chances of her somehow making the journey back to the home range of the northern residents (B.C.'s central coast) by herself are very slim.
6. The first issue to settle is whether to leave Springer where she is & "let Nature take it's course" or to intervene and move her to an area where she will have contact with other northern resident orcas and a chance of rejoining her family or another social group. Our preference, by far, is to give her that chance. If this can be agreed to, the remaining questions relate to the timing & method of intervention, and putting together a plan for transportation and care which optimizes A73's prospects.
7. If A73's health is not a matter of urgent concern, there is some latitude around the question of timing, but intervention (if agreed to) should not be delayed indefinitely. Even if she is active & alert & able to feed herself, the ongoing hazards posed by ferry traffic and the certain increase in small boat traffic as weather conditions improve still need to be considered. We lean towards intervention sooner rather than later. But still, the precise timing is an open question.
8. Looking ahead, it might make sense to plan for A73's arrival at her final destination sometime around the 3rd week in June, but it could be earlier. Whatever is decided, she should arrive at her "holding" facility prior to the arrival of other northern residents - preferably with enough time on hand for her to acclimatize before their arrival. Her pod has tended to favour the Johnstone Strait Area in late June through August and then again in the later Fall - so it would make sense to have her return to this area. A week or two in the holding facility would probably be sufficient but it could be longer. Regardless of how she travels, she will be under considerable stress when she arrives, so it may take some time for her to calm down enough to be able to feed efficiently and orient herself to the general circumstances she'll be in.
9. The question of how A73 travels is a crucial one to think through. If Canada is willing, we favour the hovercraft option as it would deal with numerous problems, especially that of continuity of feeding. Springer seems to be doing fine at the moment in that she is apparently catching fish regularly, but it's hard to see her continuing to do so under the circumstances she would be in inside a towed pen. Given that a journey via towed pen would be long, perhaps taking two weeks, there might be some need or inclination to feed her dead fish along the way. That would potentially be counterproductive - it would be far better for Springer to eat only live fish throughout. This is not to say that it is impossible to figure out how to feed Springer live fish in a towed pen - feeding stops could be made along the way - but it would be easier & less stressful if the move could happen quickly. Levels of noise and engine exhaust fumes also need consideration.
10. Going back to the capture, it needs to happen in the least stressful way possible. We favour enticing Springer inside a net pen with one side dropped & then closing it. Perhaps this can be done by trailing a log behind or beside a boat that she would follow.
11. Going forward again, considerable thought needs to be put into the design of the holding facility. Preferably, it should provide sufficient space for Springer to exercise in so that she maintains her body condition, as well as providing live fish for her to eat. An essential component of the facility, a pen to hold live fish, is potentially available in Alert Bay via the Inner Coast Natural Resources Council. Arrangements would need to be made for a supply of live fish to be caught, etc.
12. The holding facility needs to be in a location where it is protected from adverse weather and is proximal to orca travel routes. Several potential sites exist in the Johnstone Strait area, including Growler Cover on West Cracroft Island and Dong Chong Bay on Hanson Island. The latter would probably be easier to set up as it is smaller. It is in direct acoustic contact with Queen Charlotte Strait and Blackfish Sound, the likely route for returning northern resident orcas. Setting up a crew camp with adequate logistical supports would be no problem.
13. Numerous issues relating to who is going to do what remain to be sorted through. It is very encouraging that there is such great willingness, on both sides of the border, for community groups and government agencies to get involved in helping Springer get back home. Obviously, nothing can happen without the concurrence and involvement of NMFS in the USA & the DFO in Canada. Both agencies are already involved but are perhaps uncertain as to precisely how to proceed. Clearly, the public interest on both sides of the border is also involved. It needs to be recognised that the clock is ticking & a plan needs to be set in place, soon.
It should be understood and clearly stated from the outset that, should the decision be made to intervene, the outcome of the exercise is not certain - it is intended solely to give A73 a chance.
We thank you all for your efforts on behalf of A73!
If Orca is captured, officials vow to return her to elements (no longer online)
April 18, 2002 (Tacoma News-Tribune) If federal officials decide to intervene in the case of a young orphan orca hanging out near the ferry dock, every effort will be made to return her to the wild.
"If we go in, there will be a rehabilitation phase," he said, explaining intervention would only occur if the whale is found to need medical attention. She is eating and active, but a skin ailment, common among killer whales, is worsening.
Scientists also are concerned about a paint thinner-like odor on her breath, a condition called ketosis. It can indicate starvation or diabetes, both considered unlikely, or a possibly genetic metabolism problem that can be serious, said veterinarian Dave Huff of the Vancouver Aquarium.
"We see this one little whale as a messenger of the larger problems" - pollution, habitat encroachment and vessel traffic - facing whales in Puget Sound, organizer Kathy Fletcher said earlier.
Plan to rescue orca orphan gains favor in U.S., Canada April 18, 2002 (Seattle Times)
Feds spell out orca intervention plans April 18, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Orca patrol starts service
April 12, 2002 (KING5 TV) Federal fisheries officials have hired a team of whale researchers to start shooing away boaters who stop in the area near Vashon Island where an orphaned killer whale has been hanging out for weeks.
The Soundwatch program of The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor will begin patrols Saturday, handing out pamphlets to boaters warning them that allowing the orca to get too close to boats could reduce the chances she can eventually be reunited with members of her family.
Authorities don't want the whale to grow too accustomed to humans, but as long as she remains healthy they are reluctant to move her back to her more remote home waters in Canada.
Whale Researchers Shooing Boaters Away from Orphaned Orca April 12, 2002 (KIRO7 TV)
Soundwatch to monitor young orphaned orca
April 10, 2002 (San Juan Islander) Kari Koski and Dr. Richard Osborne of The Whale Museum's Soundwatch Boater Education Program will be keeping boaters away from an orphaned orca juvenile in lower Puget Sound this month. The National Marine Fisheries Service has contracted with The Whale Museum to observe the whale, as well as to educate boaters and urge them to stay away from her.
Orphan orca to be subject of forum on Vashon Island
April 10, 2002 (Seattle Times) The condition and possible fate of an orphaned Canadian orca in Puget Sound, including a rescue plan involving Canadian scientists and aquarium officials, will be the subject of a public forum next week on Vashon Island.
People for Puget Sound, which sponsored a similar forum in West Seattle last month, will hold next week's forum from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Chatauqua School, 9309 S.W. Cemetery Road. Experts from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and other scientists will discuss recent efforts to monitor the whale's condition and the criteria NMFS would use in returning the whale to its native waters off Vancouver Island.
SEAWOLF BACKGROUNDER ON ORCA CALF A-73, March 28,2002
Orca grows fond of Vashon ferry
March 28, 2002 (Seattle Times) Washington State Ferries officials are growing worried that the orphaned orca off Vashon Island is getting dangerously close to one of their boats.
"We don't want to be one icon hurting another," said Pat Patterson, director of corporate communications for the ferry system.
Brian Gorman, a NMFS spokesman, said the service isn't too worried about the orca getting into an accident and said officials should interfere as little as possible as long as it is in good health.
Orphaned orca swims with the ferries March 28, 2002 (KING5 TV) (no longer online)
Ferries Concerned Orphaned Orca Swimming Too Close For Comfort March 28, 2002 (KOMO4 TV)
Orphan Orca Approaches State Ferry March 28, 2002 (KIRO7 TV)
Little orca is looking well; tests due soon
March 26, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Activity and absence of 'funk' encourage scientists watching young whale's health.
10 days of careful observation by orca scientists suggested that the 1 1/2-year-old orca is doing OK, especially considering that orcas are highly social animals and this one hasn't had contact with any of her own kind for months.
The orca arrived in central Puget Sound after she became separated from her extended family, or pod, after her mother died. It's possible she simply couldn't keep up with the pod, but it's also possible that the pod rejected her, scientists have said.
She wandered way off course. Her pod normally hangs around northern Vancouver Island in the summer and almost never comes into Puget Sound.
"The fact that she's doing something is quite encouraging," Balcomb said.
Scientists decide to leave solitary orca in place March 26, 2002 (KING5-TV)
Scientists' Recommendation on Orca: Just Keep Watching March 26, 2002 (KIRO7-TV)
Scientists Decide To Take Hands-Off Approach With Stranded Orca March 25, 2002 (KOMO4-TV)
Future on the line for orphaned orca
March 25, 2002 (KING5 TV) Scientists are wrapping up their study of an orphaned killer whale in Puget Sound, and they're expected to make their recommendations on what to do about the orca Monday. The team of observers is reporting to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Observers say the orca, which was first spotted in January, has been improving. In the past 10 days, they've seen the whale catching fish, and signs of a lung infection are gone. The whale still has a skin infection.
A spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle, Brian Gorman, says she "seems to be holding her own."
The agency feared she was close to starving to death last month. It considering capturing her to save her life.
After watching her carefully for a week, that's no longer imminent.
Gorman says "what happens next is up to the whale."
Big baby: Helpless in Seattle (no longer online)
March 20, 2002 (Globe and Mail) Poor little A-73. She's only 2 and she's lost, perhaps cast out by her relatives. Her mother has died, and she's a long way from home. Every day, she hangs around a ferry dock near Seattle, looking for companionship.
The capture/rehab idea didn't go down well with conservationists, who thought it was just a cheap way to get the whale off the front pages and onto the back burner.
But now the NMFS has decided that A-73 doesn't look so bad after all. Dr. Ford reminds us that the guiding focus "has to be what's best for the whale," and says a plan will firm up as A-73's health is better known. You can see for yourself how she's doing at The Center for Whale Research, which has the first underwater shots (taken March 7) of the celebrity baby.
Orca orphan will stay free
March 14, 2002 (Seattle P-I) The orphaned baby orca that showed up off Vashon Island last month and stole Seattle's heart will not be cooped up in an aquarium or sea park, federal fisheries officials announced yesterday.
"We're not going to do it," NMFS spokesman Brian Gorman said.
Officials want to see how well the orca is doing physically and determine whether it's up to being captured for transport back to Canada. If so, it could go by Hovercraft, plane or boat. Or a floating "net pen" could be set up and towed behind a tugboat to gently nudge the orca home.
John Ford, head of the marine mammal research at the Canadian government's Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, said the idea of borrowing the Canadian Coast Guard's Hovercraft came up during a "seemingly endless" series of telephone conference calls among orca experts.
"We're so far from determining that kind of thing," Ford said.
Study team planned for orphan orca
March 14, 2002 (Seattle Times)
Dramatic New Rescue Plans for Whale March 14, 2002 (KOMO-TV)
Field observers gearing up for weeklong look at orphaned orca March 14, 2002 (KING5-TV) (no longer online)
Field Observers Taking Weeklong Look at Orphaned Orca March 14, 2002 (KIRO-TV)
March 14, 2002
It would be great if A73's condition has stabilized or improved---no one wants to "rescue" her if she doesn't need it. Our veterinarian Dave Huff will be heading down to see her again on Saturday--we will all be interested in his opinion and those of other observers. Even if her body condition has improved significantly it will still be in her best long-term interests to encourage her to head back to Johnstone Strait in the spring, but that could be a very different operation from what is under consideration now.
Here is a very brief summary of the Vancouver Aquarium's proposed plan for the calf IF her condition is in fact sufficiently poor that she needs rehabilitating:
1) A small leadership team (including representatives from NMFS, DFO, the Vancouver Aquarium and other groups) would be appointed and given responsibility for on-the-scene decision making. The team would operate under general parameters decided by the two governments and the scientific advisory panel.
2) The leadership team would recruit experienced personnel to capture A73 according to a plan approved by the scientific panel. Backup plans would be prepared in advance.
3) After the calf is captured, she would be held in a net pen at Manchester (near her present location) for initial assessment and feeding.
4) As soon as she is deemed robust enough to transport, she would be moved to a net pen in a quieter location in southern BC where she would be fed live fish. Her exposure to people at the net pen sites would be minimized to reduce habituation.
5) She would be moved to a similar net pen in Johnstone Strait in the late spring, where she would make acoustic contact with her pod when it arrives (typically late June to early July). Once again, contact with humans would be kept to a minimum.
6) She would be released according to criteria established by the scientific panel, and her behavior would be monitored as closely as possible for the rest of the summer.
7) In the event that the scientific panel decided that she was not releasable or that her release was a failure, a home would be sought for her in an oceanarium (not the Vancouver Aquarium). The Vancouver Aquarium has no plans to house killer whales again, and would only take her if there was absolutely no other acceptable option.
I've left out details of capture and transport methods because (while we have ideas and preferred options), we think it would be necessary to submit
those details to the panel for approval and, if necessary, revise them.
Hope this answers your questions--feel free to ask more if it doesn't.
All the best,
A Whale Of A Dilemma
March 12, 2002 (KOMO-TV) Researchers tell KOMO 4 News they have agreed with National Marine Fisheries to monitor the whale together over the next two weeks. The research may include both observation and medical tests. Researchers say that only then will the decision be made either to intervene or let A73 and mother nature chart their own course. Researchers will begin this latest round of observations as early as possible.
Q13 Exclusive: See the orphaned orca video March 11, 2002 (Q13-TV) (no longer online)
Scientists still seeking evidence of whale's health (no longer online)
March 11, 2002 (KING5-TV) Whale experts want more information before making a decision about whether to capture an orphaned orca in Puget Sound.
On Monday, a scientific advisory panel once again convened to talk about what's best for this orphaned baby whale.
They suspect the young female that has been in Puget Sound since mid-January is starving. On Monday, government scientists said they still don't know if the orca calf is in trouble. "I think we've got to take a step back and look at his whale in a careful scientific way to find out what kind of shape we're in," says Brian Gorman of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Try social approach with orphaned orca
March 9, 2002 (Seattle P-I Op-ed by Howard Garrett)
Note: On March 12, KOMO-TV announced NMFS would allow whale researchers to monitor A73 for two weeks before deciding on an intervention plan.
Below is a proposal sent Tuesday to the National Marine Fisheries Service to generate support for an approach that involves empathy and companionship, rather than the suggested emergency room medical treatment plan.
Rather than relying on the medical model, look at a social model, and intervene accordingly. That would mean looking at her social problems, which is that she's a lonely orphan, a member of the most highly social species known to science.
There's no possibility that she could rejoin her pod at least until summer, but rather than do nothing until then, or take her to an aquarium to be poked and probed, perhaps certain people could be given authorization from NMFS to keep her company without fear of arrest.
Decision due soon on what to do about wayward orca
March 9, 2002 (Seattle Times) Just why an orca might be so fond of a ferry is hard to tell, as with so many things about this creature. It could be the engines' rattle and hum, which carries so well underwater that listening through an underwater microphone is like sitting in the engine room.
It could be the Jacuzzi-like prop wash. "It gives you a sensation," said Washington State Ferries spokeswoman Susan Harris. "Little bubbles and everything."
Or it could be that the orca misses its mother and the physical companionship of other orcas, which is also why it is rubbing logs, said veterinarian Jim McBain during a People for Puget Sound forum earlier this week.
"When mom's gone, they look for a replacement," he said. "They look for a tactile replacement. They miss that touch."
Plan proposes to use sea pen
March 8, 2002 (Bremerton Sun) Two whale-protection groups say a cage hauled by tugs could transport the whale back home.
Citing time constraints, Brian Gorman, spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, could not say Wednesday whether this latest sea-pen idea would be considered by his agency.
"We really don't have a lot of time left," Gorman said. "I suspect we will make a decision in days, not weeks."
Offers pour in to help orca orphan March 8, 2002 (Everett Herald)
Second baby whale isolated in Canadian waters
March 8, 2002 (Northwest Cable Network) Luna or L-98 has inhabited the waters of Vancouver Island's Nootka Sound since last summer. For some reason he's been separated from the rest of the L pod, a group of whales usually found in U.S. waters. He's north while his pod is south. Meanwhile, Springer or A-73, a distressed calf of about the same size and age, is swimming in the waters between West Seattle and Vashon Island.
Scientists say this situation of two calves so far out of place at the same time is unprecedented, but they cannot find anything that connects the two. It's just a very strange coincidence.
More about Luna (L98)
Help on way for orphaned orca
March 8, 2002 (Seattle Times) "Nothing's changed," Brian Gorman, a National Marine Fisheries Service spokesman, said yesterday of the orca's situation. "We're closer to making some kind of an announcement, but we're not there yet. My sense is we'll probably be sure of what we're going to do and how to intervene maybe early next week.
Oregon may rehab orphan orca
March 7, 2002 (Portland Oregonian) Agency wrestles with rescue, rehab of orphaned killer whale.
Brian Gorman, spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, continued, "She doesn't know what to do."
The federal agency Wednesday was still trying to decide its next step in rescuing the whale it now identifies as A73, which actually is just 2 years old. And one of the options involves bringing her to the Oregon Coast Aquarium for rehabilitation and release back into the wild.
The Oregon aquarium is one of four marine centers on the West Coast to have submitted a proposal to the fisheries service detailing what it could do to care for and to return the orca to a community of killer whales that inhabits an area ranging from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to the southeast tip of Alaska.
A73 was first discovered Jan. 14. After a month passed, the fisheries service convened a scientific panel seeking advice on what to do. The panel of biologists, veterinarians and government scientists found that her condition was poor and deteriorating.
Keiko's pals make a bid to help orphaned orca March 7, 2002 (Seattle P-I)
Worry continues to mount over orca
March 5, 2002 (Seattle P-I) Some fear orphan's life is in danger, that time is running out.
A panel of scientists and a group of about 100 compassionate citizens meeting in West Seattle last night debated whether it would be best to take her in, take her home or leave her be.
Kathy Fletcher, executive director of the People for Puget Sound, said in an interview that orcas throughout the sound are in trouble because of reduced salmon runs and the effects of pollution.
Little Orca Raises Big Debate March 5, 2002 (KOMO-TV)
Whale watchers worried about orphan orca (no longer online)
March 2, 2002 (CNN) For weeks now, an orphan killer whale has been hanging around central Puget Sound -- about 250 miles from her only known family member in Canada -- and experts are worried she might not survive.
Lone whale may be doing better than expected (no longer online)
March 1, 2002 (KING5 TV) The Oregon Coast Aquarium, former home to Keiko, volunteered to house the small orca who has been in Puget Sound for months. But new video taken by KING 5 gives hope to the idea that the whale may be doing better than expected.
In an extraordinary piece of video tape captured by Sky KING Friday morning, the young orca, alone off the northeastern shore of Vashon Island for the past two months, appeared to be playing with a very large salmon, 20 pounds or more.
March 1, 2002 (Bremerton Sun) Experts say an orphan killer whale will likely die if left alone, but nobody has a clear plan of action.
For the first time in 27 years, killer whale experts are contemplating the capture of a live orca in Puget Sound.
Orphaned orca may be caught and sent to theme park
March 1, 2002 (Seattle P-I) Federal fisheries officials are considering capturing a young, orphaned killer whale that has been swimming around Vashon Island for several weeks -- possibly for permanent residence at a theme park.
The National Marine Fisheries Service yesterday asked conservationists what should be done about the female orca, which split off from a group of other killer whales that spends much of its time around the northern end of Vancouver Island in Canada.
The orca, born in August 2000 and identified by NMFS as A-73, isn't eating properly and is showing signs of malnutrition.
Orphaned whale bound for Vancouver Aquarium? March 1, 2002 (CBC)
Help for ill, orphaned orca stirs debate March 1, 2002 (Seattle Times)
JUVENILE ORCA REHAB CONSIDERED FOR OREGON COAST AQUARIUM
Oregon Coast Aquarium Press Release
March 1, 2002
[Ralph Munro] (in response to NMFS inquiry)
My phone has been ringing off the hook. Obviously, first and formost, we
want to do what is best for the animal. I am happy to give you my
advice, but it is not as valuable as people like Ken Balcomb of the
Whale Research Center on San Juan Island. [Personally, I have not seen
the whale and have been out of state for a few days.]
I would suggest that anything you do, be under the supervision of Ken
or someone like Ken. He is very valuable in a situation like this.
If a capture is necessary, then I would suggest that a sea pen or a
transfer by sea pen to a cove for feeding and rehab would be my first
suggestion. Remember that when Namu [who was healthy] was brought south
from BC, Ted Griffin kept the whale the first winter in a cove just
outside of Rich Passage near Waterman. [across from Point White on SW
corner of Bainbridge Island]
If the animal gains strength, then it could be towed in the sea pen to
BC waters. Obviously the Canadians would have to agree.
I do not believe at this time the whale should be taken from the water
and or moved to any aquarium. This should only be as a very last resort
and then it would take some real convincing to get me to agree.
Some have suggested the animal is starving. Todays television might tell
a different story.
The footage on KING 5 news shows the whale playing with a salmon. I
doesn't appear to me that the whale is starving. If you have a chance, I
strongly suggest you look at the tape taken today off Vashion Island.
You are to be commended for seeking advice. Please keep in touch with
me, but more importantly with scientists like Ken Balcomb. I am sure you
will get plenty of 'public input' and that is valuable as well. If I
can help, in any way, please feel free to call me 24 hours a day.
Also as a sidenote, please remember that under Federal Court Order, Sea
World, Donald Goldsberry, Dr Lanny Cornell or their companies, can not
be involved in any capture and or rescue-capture attempts. The order
reads that they do not ever have the right to take any killer whales
within the waters of the state of Washington.
Thank you again for seeking my advice.
Roving, solitary orcas puzzle researchers
February 4, 2002 (Seattle Times) Among the few things that whale researchers think they know about orcas, particularly resident orcas that frequent a specific region, is that they are family-oriented creatures who rarely stray far from their mothers.
But now researchers are looking at two orcas — one in Puget Sound that's been seen off Vashon Island and one off the west coast of Vancouver Island — that have done just that.
Two orcas like peas without pods
February 2, 2002 (Seattle P-I) Scientists puzzle over the lone whales in Puget Sound, B.C.
Two lost baby orcas -- one in a remote Vancouver Island inlet, the other in Puget Sound -- are puzzling scientists who say they have never before seen young killer whales split off from their families that way.
One orca, named Luna, was discovered last July in Nootka Sound along the rugged northwestern coast of Vancouver Island, scientists announced this week.
The second baby orca turned up alone recently in central Puget Sound. Recordings of its underwater calls were used late this week to identify it as coming from a group of whales never before seen there.
"This is something we've never encountered before," said John Ford, head of marine mammal research at the Pacific Biological Station on Vancouver Island. "The fact that there are two is very unusual."
More about Luna (L98)
Stray young orcas puzzle scientists (no longer online)
February 2, 2002 (Vancouver Sun) One theory is that toxins could have caused a disorder
Marine-mammal scientist John Ford doesn't know why a young killer whale found lingering alone on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island left its pod. B.C.'s resident orcas normally remain with their family group until they die.
Ken Balcomb, of Washington state's Center for Whale Research, said a body-tissue sample has been taken from another young killer whale in Puget Sound to try to find out whether pollutants could be responsible for that calf being found wandering alone.
Balcomb pointed to studies that link high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls -- a chlorine-based compound once widely used in fluorescent light ballasts and other electrical equipment -- to problems with the fetus, immune system and nervous system. In humans, a lower IQ and a smaller brain size in children has been linked to high PCB levels in the breast milk of mothers.
Balcomb said marine-mammal scientists can't measure the IQ of whales, but it's possible that PCBs may affect the thinking abilities of those mammals too.
"Maybe it's very high in contaminants and has some kind of attention-deficit disorder," he said. "Nervous disorders are not uncommon with high PCB levels."
Experts want to reunite whale with its family (no longer online)
February 1, 2002 (CNN) Marine wildlife experts on Canada's Pacific Coast are puzzling over a whale of a family reunion problem.
A juvenile killer whale has been alone off Vancouver Island since he became separated from his family pod last summer and officials want them reunited since the area's resident orca population is already dwindling.
"If L pod happens to be passing by the entrance of the sound, perhaps L-98 might hear them in the distance and go racing out. That's our hope," Ford said.
Experts want to reunite lost whale with family
February 1, 2002 (Environmental News Service) Scientists have identified a lonely killer whale calf that has spent the past six months in a remote inlet on Vancouver Island's west coast as Luna, an orca that had been presumed dead after disappearing from Puget Sound last summer.
The calf, known to scientists as L-98, was born in L-Pod, a group of "southern resident" orcas that frequent Washington state's inland waters. The whale is about 2 1/2 years old, equivalent to a human toddler, but whale experts say it has been able to hunt for fish and is in good shape.
"To our surprise, he seems to be making a living," said Lance Barrett-Lennard, a marine mammal scientist at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Young orca found living alone off Vancouver Island
(Note: See report below)
January 31, 2002 (Seattle Times) Marine scientists are trying to help a orca-whale calf that has lost his pod and has spent the past six months in a remote inlet on Vancouver Island's west coast.
The calf is about 2-1/2 years old, but he's been able to hunt for fish and is in pretty good shape, they said.
Lance Barrett-Lennard, a marine-mammal scientist at the Vancouver Aquarium, said it's unusual for an orca to lose his pod.
The calf follows the research boat, Barrett-Lennard said, but at a certain point, the same point every time, he will not go farther. Researchers think he is waiting in one spot, perhaps for his pod to find him. The scientists aren't saying exactly where the whale is because they don't want him disturbed.
If the team needs to help the whale leave the inlet to be reunited with his pod, he'll need to be conditioned to follow a particular boat.
Barrett-Lennard said the group knows the calf's mother was still alive last summer. But an uncle he often swam with is missing.
Observations of a small killer whale in Puget Sound by Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research.
DFO and Partners Lay out Action Plan to Protect Killer Whale
January 30, 2002
Special Report from the Canadian Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans
2-year-old L98 is alive and well after at least seven months away from L pod! He was first seen in September, 1999, shortly after his birth to L67.
January 30, 2002
A most unusual situation has developed here in British Columbia, which I think will be of considerable interest to the network. Since July 2001, a lone juvenile killer whale has been residing in a remote inlet on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It came to our attention in September, but we were unable to photograph it for identification until November. We have confirmed, with the assistance of the Center for Whale Research, that the whale is L98, a member of L pod born in 1999. This whale was not present with L pod when censused in June, 2001.
We have not made this situation public until now in consideration of L98's well-being. We were initially quite concerned that the whale would not obtain sufficient food as winter approached, and potential disruption from curious boaters would not help the situation. However, so far he seems to be doing quite well. We have observed him catching salmon, and he is showing no signs of emaciation. We plan to continue regular field trips to the west coast to monitor L98's health status. Fisheries and Oceans will undertake conservation and protection patrols as required to ensure the whale is not disturbed. In the meantime, we will continue discussions with our colleagues to develop response strategies should the juvenile's health deteriorate.
The L98 situation is the first time that a young resident whale has been found separated from its pod for a significant length of time. (A somewhat similar incident took place in the late 1970s, when an unknown, young killer whale in poor health was found at Campbell River and was ultimately taken into captivity at Sealand in Victoria...the whale came to be known as 'Miracle'). We have no idea how L98 came to be alone in this inlet, but he seems reluctant to leave. The situation is particularly interesting given the recent occurrence of the lone (as yet unidentified) juvenile in Puget Sound. There is no evidence that the two events are related. We'll provide updates to the network on L98's status as things develop.
John Ford and Graeme Ellis
Marine Mammal Research Program
Conservation Biology Section
Pacific Biological Station
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Nanaimo, BC V9R 5K6
Young Orca discovered alone in Puget Sound (no longer online)
January 16, 2002 (KING5 TV) A young whale was seen swimming alone between the Fauntleroy ferry dock and north Vashon Island. The whale is about 11 feet long and assumed to be about 2.5 years old.
“He's a juvenile, he's past nursing, so he's not dependent on his mother for milk. He's dependent on his family for social context. I think that's why he's responding now. We give him a little encouragement here and he checked us out,” said Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research.
Tuesday, January 15 (Orca Network Sighting Report)
Here's the latest on the orca calf off Vashon Island:
This morning at approx. 10:30 Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research and Mark Sears were with the calf off Vashon Island, near the Fauntleroy Ferry Dock, & were with it most of the day. The following report was just on KING 5 News, in an interview with Ken Balcomb:
Ken was able to measure the calf at 11', and estimates its age to be approx. 2 1/2 years. It seems to be in good health, but its skin is mottled & sloughing. It is not dependent on its Mom for milk or food at this age, but is dependent on its family for social context. Ken was unable to obtain skin samples today, but took some good photographs for identification purposes, & hopes to confirm the calf's identity soon. He is speculating that it could be an L pod calf, who may have become lost or separated from its pod, & is waiting for its Mom to come find it.
Watch KING 5 News to see more on this great story, and to see some great footage of the calf, who looked very friendly and curious about Ken's interest in it!
And we will continue to update you on this calf as we hear more. If you have questions about any of our sighting reports, please email us for more information & we will relay your questions on to the appropriate person.
Many thanks, & stay tuned - hopefully we'll finally learn the identity of this mystery calf soon!
Susan & Howie
Monday, January 14 (Orca Network Sighting Report)
[later that evening] An update on the orca calf off Vashon Island, from Mark Sears via Marilyn Dahlheim:
The calf is 8 - 10', its skin is grayish & mottled, with some abrasions. It is alone, & its behavior ranged from being lethargic to breaching & spy-hopping. It was also approaching boats. This could've been the same whale reported previously & thought to be "Foster" the pseudorca - at least now we know there IS a small, lone orca out there acting strange, & it's a great relief to have him located & photographed, thanks to Mark Sears. Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research is on his way to help identify and figure out what's going on with this little critter. Thanks again to all who have helped to try & locate this whale over the past week or so - & stay tuned for the latest info. on this unfolding mystery~
[2:30 PM] The mystery continues with another sighting of a lone, young orca today, Jan. 14th. Marilyn Dahlheim of NMFS just called to tell us that Mark Sears of Seattle reported this whale at 2:30 pm off Vashon Island. Mark is out with the whale now, so we will FINALLY get some photos &/or video footage of this little mystery whale! We'll let you know as soon as we hear anything more - stay tuned.....
Susan & Howie
Thursday, January 10 (Orca Network Sighting Report)
First, from Marilyn Dahlheim of NMFS:
Hi all. Talked to my husband Bob today and Foster was seen yesterday (Jan. 9th) - still in Commencement Bay (via Crowley Tug crew).
We got a call at 1:30 a.m. this morning from the Arthur Foss Tug, which was at the Oil Dock at Pt. Wells, south of Edmonds. They reported a young orca (8-9' in length) swimming back & forth right next to the ship they were getting ready to escort out. They said the orca was moving slowly, & staying near the surface, & had been there about 45 minutes. The description & behavior sounded very much like the reports of the whale in Swinomish Channel, & again, the guys on the Foss Tug reported it had a white belly & were very sure it was an orca. We have reported this to NMFS, & checked again with the crew of the Foss, but their last report was at 2 am when they pulled away from the dock & the whale was still there.
Thursday, January 3 (Orca Network Sighting Report)
First is a report of a lone orca in Swinomish Channel, called in by Jack Sanford. Yesterday at dusk he saw what he is 90% sure was a small orca swimming in the channel. Subsequent callers reported seeing a small orca in Swinomish Channel Wednesday, Jan 2 and Thursday Jan 3. Note: We have also received several additional reports of a small "mystery" orca in Swinomish Channel near LaConner yesterday afternoon, so we are asking anyone in that general area to please look for this animal & call us if you see it. There is some concern that it could possibly be connected to the strandings in Dungeness Bay, & in any case, it is very strange behavior for an orca to be in the channel for several days like this. On Friday Shane Agergaard of Island Adventures in Anacortes searched around Fidalgo Island and down Swinomish Channel to Hole-in-the-Wall but did not find the orca.
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