B.C. orca calf 'decided that she is not ready to be moved,' rescue team says

Orca evades capture

UPDATE 4:15 p.m.

The team trying to rescue an orphaned killer whale trapped in a B.C. lagoon says they are "truly humbled at the intelligence, adaptability and resilience" of the calf that managed to evade capture today.

A statement issued by the Ehattesaht First Nation chief and council and the rescue team says they made the decision to stand down after the young orca "simply decided she was not ready to be moved."

It says experts and veterinarian staff from the Vancouver Aquarium were able to get a good look at the young female during the capture attempt and say she still appears to be in good health, that her breathing is solid and she is swimming well.

The statement says the team will regroup after this attempt and will start planning next steps.

Rescuers were trying to corral her into a shallow part of the three-kilometre lagoon, using boats, divers and a net, so she could be placed in a large fabric sling and hoisted onto a transport vehicle.

The two-year-old calf has been alone in Little Espinosa Inlet for about three weeks after its pregnant mother was beached at low tide and died on March 23.

UPDATE 8:45 a.m.

A rescue attempt to save a killer whale calf stranded in a tidal lagoon near Zeballos, B.C. is underway this morning.

The road access to the lagoon is blocked by members of the Ehattesaht First Nation, but an official at the scene says an attempt to get the female orca calf out of the lagoon and transferred into the open ocean is underway.

A First Nation official who declined to provide his name says the attempt is going ahead because of the favourable weather conditions.

ORIGINAL 5:24 a.m.

A team of about two dozen people is preparing the planned landing area for the complex rescue of an orphaned killer whale calf trapped in a remote tidal lagoon off northwest Vancouver Island.

Veterinarians, whale response experts, First Nations members and logistics experts are expected to conduct a series of dry runs ahead of the planned rescue, which could occur within days.

The federal Fisheries Department says in a statement many people are working tirelessly to develop and put finishing touches on the rescue of the two-year-old female calf, which has been alone in the lagoon for more than two weeks after its pregnant mother became beached at low tide and died.

It says the calf's health will be a key consideration during the capture, transport and release into the ocean.

The department previously discussed initially holding the young orca in an ocean net pen until freeing it when members of its mother's family were nearby, but now it says she will be released directly into open water where she is most likely to encounter the pod.

The department says it is organizing logistics with the Ehattesaht First Nation for the whale's safe capture, transport in a large fabric sling, then release to the ocean.

The department has been involved in previous rescue attempts for other whales and it says that will help with planning, although every situation is unique.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2024.

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