When Jared Towers helped lure out a lone male orca on Thursday that had been in the Comox Harbour for 11 days he felt pretty good.
But on Friday, as he was on a ferry home to Alert Bay, he was surprised to hear the very same whale had gone right by his doorstep.
“He beat me home, he was right off my porch at 10 a.m.,” said Towers. “It’s so nice to have follow up sightings of this guy… we’ve got such a great sighting network.”
T073B, an adult Bigg’s killer whale from Alaska was spotted around Campbell River Thursday around 6 p.m. after being lured out of the harbour using acoustic equipment — playing sounds from a group of whales he had been with in the past.
That means the whale had traveled more than 170 Kilometres in 19 hours, with an average speed of around 6 knots. Southern Resident Killer Whales usually travel an average of 120 kilometers a day.
Alert Bay is on Cormorant Island just off of Port McNeil.
“It seems like regular whale behavior so I’m pleased… he is certainly moving in one direction at a pretty steady clip, ” said Towers.
Towers is a killer whale specialist who works for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and was apart of the crew who used a recording of a pod the orca had been with in the past to move him out of the harbour.
The efforts ended a saga that had eyes peeled on the small town harbour for over a week. People were lining the Comox pier and paddling out to the harbour on Kayaks and paddleboards hoping to catch a glimpse of the orca.
At one point a sailboat was pulled around by the killer whale as it played with the anchor line under water. The Canadian Coast Guard vessel M. Charles which is in charge of fisheries enforcement was eventually sent in to keep an eye on the situation, and enforce a 200-metre “no go” zone around an orca.
And with the Comox Nautical Days events underway this weekend, some started calling for the fireworks planned for Monday to be canceled.
Experts were also puzzled as to why it remained in the harbour for so long. Only four similar cases have occurred since the 1980’s, but each involved a juvenile, not an adult orca.
“But in each case, it seems the whales sometimes have a mental barrier, it’s almost like hugging a tree when they are lost, he could have left at any time.” said Towers.
The orca has been traveling alone for quite some time, but Towers says the behavior is not uncommon.
“I presume he is looking forward to some company… but it’s not unusual for this whale to be alone… males can travel alone for long periods of time,” added Towers.
“I dont think he will end up back in the harbour anytime soom.”