Baby calf still stranded near Zeballos; mother was pregnant when she died


A young orca calf that was left orphaned when its mother died in Little Espinosa Inlet near Zeballos Saturday is refusing to leave the area.

The sound of the young two-year-old calling out to its mother could be heard on a listening device submerged in the water Monday.

The young calf was seen coming up for air in the inlet and was likely confused about where to go.

“Yesterday, we were able to move mom out to do a necropsy outside the lagoon area and hoping that maybe the calf might have followed,” said Paul Cottrell, marine mammal coordinator with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

“Unfortunately, the calf didn’t follow, so the calf is still in the lagoon.”

The mother, a 14-year-old Biggs Killer Whale, died Saturday morning after getting stranded on high ground in the inlet when the tide went out.

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Cottrell says it was likely an “over-aggressive seal predation event.”

It was likely teaching its calf how to hunt, and we’ve been told it was even found with a seal in its mouth.

Locals rushed to help the orca, but she couldn’t be moved.

“People are feeling emotional about the mother whale and the baby to trying to get the baby to a pod so it can live its life,” said Kyle Harry, a member of the Ehattesaht First Nation.

Cottrell told CHEK News the necropsy determined that the female killer was carrying another calf.

Now the attention has turned to saving her other, now orphaned calf.

“We’ve got multiple boats out, multiple DFO boats. We’re working with Ehattesaht, Nuu-chah-nulth, we’ve got a jet boat, so we’ve got the right resources here to try to see if we can move this calf out,” added Cottrell.

The plan is to play a recording of another orca that the calf is familiar with and hope to draw it out.

“We’ve sourced some recordings of this whale’s great aunt’s group, which should have a very similar dialect to its mother, and we’re hoping to use those calls to coax it through the shallows and back out to the open water,” said Jared Towers, executive director of Bay Cetology.

“It has been done a few times with the team that’s here with great success, so we’re hoping for a repeat today,” added Ocean Wise research technician Gary Sutton.

Unfortunately, in a tight window, rescuers had at slack tide, the young orca didn’t seem to acknowledge the recordings, and the mission was called off.

Cottrell told CHEK News the young orca will not survive for long on its own and that rescuers will remain in the area attempting to rescue her at each high tide.

Dean Stoltz

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