MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Trapped orphaned whale calf is now free

Apr 26, 2024, 2:59 PM

The orphaned killer whale calf in a lagoon near Zeballos, B.C. (Jared Towers, Ehattesaht First Nati...

The orphaned killer whale calf in a lagoon near Zeballos, B.C. (Jared Towers, Ehattesaht First Nation/Canadian Press Handout Photo)

(Jared Towers, Ehattesaht First Nation/Canadian Press Handout Photo)

A whale calf that had been trapped in a lagoon off Vancouver Island since last month is now free.

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nation members in a small inflatable boat used sea lion meat to lure the young Bigg’s whale into the lagoon outlet Thursday.

The calf, named Brave Little Hunter, remained at the entrance of the lagoon throughout the evening.

The Fisheries Department and a Marine Mammal Rescue team monitored the young whale to ensure she wouldn’t become stranded during low tide.

Her mother became stuck on a sandbar last month. The young whale stayed in the lagoon, either unable – or unwilling – to cross the sandbar where her mother died.

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Very early Friday morning, the calf left the lagoon.

She was spotted in Espinosa Inlet, moving towards Esperanza Inlet proper.

A team is now working to encourage the calf to head towards the open ocean where they are monitoring the location of her family in the hopes of reuniting them.

During the afternoon of April 25, members of Nuchatlaht First Nation and Ehattesaht First Nation were able to entice the calf, kʷiisaḥiʔis (Brave Little Hunter), to the lagoon outlet using a small inflatable vessel and sea lion meat.

The animal stayed at the entrance of the lagoon throughout the evening. The Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Marine Mammal Rescue team monitored the animal to ensure it did not become stranded during an upcoming low tide.

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On Friday, April 26, at 2:30 a.m. PST, during high tide, kʷiisaḥiʔis left the lagoon. As of 7:18 a.m. PST, the calf was found in Espinosa Inlet, moving towards Esperanza Inlet proper. The team is now working to encourage kʷiisaḥiʔis to move towards open ocean water.

DFO will work with First Nations, whale watchers, researchers and boaters to monitor the location of Bigg’s (Transient) killer whales. The team will also monitor the calf’s location while she seeks out her family.

This rescue operation could not have been possible without the strong collaboration between Ehattesaht First Nation, Nuchatlaht First Nation, the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Society, Bay Cetology, the Community of Zeballos and others.

The public is reminded that disturbance to marine mammals is prohibited under the Marine Mammal Regulations. Please keep 400m away from killer whales in southern BC waters and 200m away in all other parts of Pacific Canadian waters. For more information, please visit: Watching marine wildlife (dfo-mpo.gc.ca).

Heather Bosch is an award-winning anchor and reporter on KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of her stories here. Follow Heather on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

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Trapped orphaned whale calf is now free