Orphaned B.C. orca: Rescue team prepares landing site for complex rescue

ZEBALLOS, B.C. — A team of about two dozen people is preparing the planned landing area for the complex rescue of an orphaned killer whale calf trapped in a remote tidal lagoon off northwest Vancouver Island.

Veterinarians, whale response experts, First Nations members and logistics experts are expected to conduct a series of dry runs ahead of the planned rescue, which could occur within days.

The federal Fisheries Department says in a statement many people are working tirelessly to develop and put finishing touches on the rescue of the two-year-old female calf, which has been alone in the lagoon for more than two weeks after its pregnant mother became beached at low tide and died.

It says the calf’s health will be a key consideration during the capture, transport and release into the ocean.

The department previously discussed initially holding the young orca in an ocean net pen until freeing it when members of its mother’s family were nearby, but now it says she will be released directly into open water where she is most likely to encounter the pod.

The department says it is organizing logistics with the Ehattesaht First Nation for the whale’s safe capture, transport in a large fabric sling, then release to the ocean.

The department has been involved in previous rescue attempts for other whales and it says that will help with planning, although every situation is unique.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2024.

The Canadian Press