Killer whale stranded on island near B.C. coast rescued
TORONTO -- A killer whale stranded on the shore of an Alaskan island near British Columbia was rescued thanks to the help of wildlife officials and the crew of a passing ship.
NOAA Fisheries, which is the U.S. federal agency responsible for marine conservation, received word of a stranded orca at around 9 a.m. on Thursday after the whale was spotted by a nearby private vessel. The whale had been stuck on a rocky beach on the east side of Prince of Wales Island, located in the Alaskan Panhandle near the B.C. coast, NOAA Fisheries spokesperson Julie Fair told CTVNews.ca in an email on Sunday.
At that time, the six-metre-long whale was approximately 1.5 metres above the tide line. High tide was expected to occur at around 5:30 p.m. The whale had also been vocalizing the whole time it was stranded, and other orcas were spotted in its vicinity.
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"NOAA Fisheries marine mammal experts decided to take a wait and see approach, hoping that with the incoming tide, the killer whale would refloat and be able to leave the beach area," said Fair.
In the meantime, NOAA allowed the vessel's crew to pump seawater at the whale in order to keep the whale wet and keep the birds away until Alaska Wildlife Troopers and a NOAA officer arrived, Fair said.
The tide had started to come in at around 2 p.m. and by 3 p.m., the tide had risen high enough that the whale could refloat.
"(Our officer and troopers) say it moved a bit slowly at first and meandered around a little before swimming away," said Fair.
With the help of researchers at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the killer whale has been identified as T146D, a 13-year-old juvenile Bigg's killer whale from the "west coast transient" population.
Some observers on social media speculated that the whale may have been stranded due to the 8.2-magnitude earthquake that shook parts of Alaska on Wednesday, but Fair says there isn't any evidence that the earthquake played any part.
"The earthquake was a thousand miles away in the Aleutian Islands, and this stranding happened in Southeast Alaska," said Fair. "Live strandings of whales, including killer whales, is unusual but does happen from time to time."