DFO response team still trying to save orca calf near Zeballos


Several Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Marine Mammal Response team members were on the water Tuesday at Little Espinosa near Zeballos, making yet another attempt to save an orca calf. 

After failing to draw the calf out of the lagoon using sounds from its own pod on Monday, rescuers are trying something different — pushing it toward a narrow opening using sounds it might not like.

“So right now, those guys are rigged up,” said Glen McCall, who’s assisting with the rescue.

“They’ve got acoustics, they’ve got this kind of wall of rope, and then they’ve also got some pipes on there and some other stuff that makes some noises, so you know you’re herding a two-year-old whale.”

McCall’s road maintenance crew was the first to spot the stranded mother orca, a 14-year-old Bigg’s killer whale, Saturday morning. They have been involved ever since, now allowing the DFO to use their jet boat to help in the rescue effort. 

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The orca was stuck on shore, where it died Saturday.

A DFO marine mammal coordinator confirmed to CHEK News Monday that during the orca’s necropsy, it was confirmed that it was pregnant.

“So having DFO on site with all their knowledge is amazing, you know,” said McCall.

“They’re out there right now. I’ve got my boat and two of my guys on my boat with some DFO people, and hopefully today, we get it through those narrows.”

The narrows is a 120-foot-wide span under a bridge when the tide is either rushing in or rushing out, and there’s only a very narrow window of time when the orca might swim out.

The local First Nation is also very involved and has now named the orca calf.

“Kʷiisaḥiʔis (Kwee-sa-hay-is), and it does mean little hunter or brave little one, and it has to do with being a small person,” said Chief Simon John with the Ehattesaht First Nation.

He says the Nation is devastated by the mom’s death and the baby orca’s current situation.

By Tuesday afternoon, the DFO’s plan seemed to be working. The two boats with sound devices were forcing the calf to the end of the inlet close to the opening, but then it swam back to the other end, just too hesitant to make a dash for safety.

The DFO hasn’t said yet if it will make another attempt on Wednesday.


Dean Stoltz

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