Springer and her second calf. Credit: Lisa Spaven, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Officials say the orphaned orca who was captured and released back into her pod fifteen years ago has given birth to her second calf. Isabelle Raghem reports.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) said Friday that Springer's second calf was first seen by CetaceaLab on British Columbia's north central coast on June 5 and was confirmed by a research survey.
"Springer had been sighted with a possible new baby," said OrcaLab Whale Researcher Paul Spong "we were hopeful but not certain but more recently there have been other sightings so it's quite definite."
Springer, who is now 17-year-old, gave birth to her first calf, Spirit, in 2013. Springer, who is officially known as A-73, was rescued in Puget Sound near Seattle in 2002. At the time, officials said she was starving and sick. She was attempting to make friends with boats and logs.
Springer was separated from her pod after her mother died and she had failed one attempt to join another pod of killer whales. It was determined she would not survive on her own in the busy shipping lane and she was subsequently captured.
After she was captured, Springer was kept in a net pen for a month then taken to Johnstone Strait at the north end of Vancouver Island where she was reunited with her original pod. The DFO receives records of Springer each year.
“Fifteen and half years ago Springer was orphaned, 300 miles from home, starving, sick and completely alone,” said Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, director of the Cetacean Research Program at Ocean Wise in a statement. “Her rescue, relocation, reunification with relatives and transition to motherhood is an incredible story. I see it as testimony to both the resiliency of killer whales as a species and to the wonderful things we humans can do when we work together on behalf of — rather than against — nature.”
"I would say just the fact that she has two kids at this point that's a big affirmative that she's made it," said Paul Spong of OrcaLab.
Springer is most often seen in the north central British Columbia coast and occasionally returns to Johnstone Strait.
Prince of Whales lead skipper Mark Malleson says this birth is exciting news for whale watchers across the Island, "It's such a happy story. It's gonna spread all over and people can come see our Southern resident whales [they're a] completely different group of whales but eating salmon hopefully our whales start having more calves."
An event called "Celebrate Springer," will take place from July 21 to July 23 at Telegraph Cove to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Springer's rescue. The rescue team from 2002 will tell their stories about how Springer was identified, rescued and rehabilitated. A slide show, called 'Springer's Story" will be shown at 11 a.m. on July 22 followed by a panel discussion. The new Telegraph Cove Whale Trail sign will be deidcated at 4 p.m. and at 5:30 p.m., there will be a salmon dinner open to the public on the Boardwalk.