‘Really sad’: Hundreds tried to help orca that died on beach on Vancouver Island

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The dead orca is pictured on the right, while a calf swims nearby on the left.

Hundreds of people gathered on a beach in a remote area of northern Vancouver Island to try to help an orca that was stuck on shore, with what seemed to be its calf in tow.

Kyle Harry and his fiancé, Florence Bruce, were among the people trying to help keep the orca on Saturday, which was stuck in a lagoon area at low tide.

Despite hours of trying, the orca died near the community of Zeballos, with what appeared to be its calf still swimming not far away.

“When we got there, there were a lot of people out there and when we were leaving there were over 200 people watching the whale that was on the beach,” Harry told CHEK News.

“And there’s a baby killer whale swimming around it while waiting for the tide to come out, because the small killer whale couldn’t go anywhere because the tide was down.”

Harry says community members from the Ehattesaht/Chinehkint First Nation as well as Zeballos came together to try to keep the orca alive until the tide came in.

“There was about 30 of us trying to turn it onto its belly from its side,” he said.

“And we were wetting it with towels and buckets of water.”

The couple says they were helping with the whale for about two hours before it died.

“It fought really hard, too,” said Bruce.

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Florence Bruce is pictured with the orca.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada were contacted and told community members that they were flying in from Vancouver, but the orca died before they arrived. By the time the couple left at approximately 10:45 a.m., the team had not yet reached the Island.

CHEK News has reached out to DFO for further details.

Unusual sight

The couple thinks the orca that died may have been trying to teach the younger orca how to hunt.

“There was a dead seal around the mother when we got there, like a seal was ripped apart,” said Harry.

“And that seal was probably on the beach, which is why the mother was on the beach, to get that seal, and it got it,” he added.

The couple says that orcas and other whales are a common sight in the area, but it’s the first time they’ve ever seen an orca get beached on shore.

“It was an amazing experience. Really sad, but it was amazing,” said Bruce.

In the future, Bruce says she hopes that more education about how to help animals in similar situations will be available.

“There was one person certified with whale rescue, and I would like to be a part of that,” she said.

“It’s really upsetting and we tried our best, and I think maybe we should be more educated on it, and not just have the one person certified,” she said.

Harry says he was asked by the local chief to sing a song for the whale and everyone there before they departed, which he did.

“I’m just glad our community pulled together – Ehattesaht, Chinehkint, Zeballos – and we all tried to help each other and see what we can do about it,” he said.

SEE ALSO: ‘She left a great legacy’: Researchers suspect freed killer whale T046 has died in Salish Sea

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) was involved in the response. In fact, MERS tells CHEK News it was not involved.

Adam Chan

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