For the first time this year, northern resident killer whales have been located near Vancouver Island including the first to be re-integrated into her pod following human intervention.
A Prince of Whales tour boat came across about a dozen orcas that surfaced and fed on salmon to the passengers’ surprise and delight.
One of the whales spotted included A73, a female identified as Springer.
She was discovered emaciated hundreds of miles from her family pod and in 2002 was captured and treated with medicine.
Springer was taken back to her traditional territory and is the only whale to be successfully re-integrated into a wild population.
“We shut down the engines, put down the hydrophone and we listened to their vocalization. It was magical,” Prince of Whales & Marine Wildlife Adventures Captain Scott Turton said.
“I don’t think there was a dry eye on board.”
Officials say the northern resident population is more than 300, feeding primarily on salmon, specializing on Chinook and Chum.
The northern killer whales range from southern Alaska to southern Washington State and it is expected they will stay in the Johnstone Strait area, off Vancouver Island, until late September or early October.
Prince of Whales owner Alan McGillivray said in a statement the arrival of the northern population comes at the same time the southern resident killer whales have returned to the Salish Sea.
The southern residents, with an endangered population of 76, were spotted last week off the west coast of Vancouver Island, after not being seen for eight weeks.