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‘Give it our best shot’: Efforts resume to save stranded orca calf on B.C. coast

Click to play video: 'Efforts continue to rescue orphaned orca calf'
Efforts continue to rescue orphaned orca calf
WATCH: With an attempt to lure an orphaned orca calf to the open ocean using whale sounds, experts are starting to consider a more 'hands-on' approach. Kristen Robinson reports – Mar 28, 2024

Desperate attempts to rescue a stranded orca calf on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island resumed Thursday, with an effort to entice the young whale out to sea.

The two-year-old whale is trapped in the same tidal lagoon near Zeballos where its mother died on Saturday after becoming stranded by low tide.

“We realize the likelihood of success is not very high, but we are here to give it our best shot,” Fisheries and Oceans Canada marine mammal rescue coordinator Paul Cottrell said.

Click to play video: 'Efforts continue to free orca calf from Vancouver Island lagoon'
Efforts continue to free orca calf from Vancouver Island lagoon

Cottrell said officials have been working with the Ehattesaht First Nation and have a tight tidal window in the next few days to lure it to deeper water.

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“Logistically to work in this area is very, very difficult. It’s a tidal lagoon, very narrow opening, significant currents going in and then out, and really the slack (tide) lasts maybe 15 minutes, and it is very shallow,” he said.

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“It’s just been reluctant to take the last step over this shallow bar. That’s what we are hoping today to kind of entice the animal over and keep the animal moving to hopefully deeper outside waters where it has a much better chance of reuniting with its pod.”

The Thursday plan involves up to a dozen boats on the water, and Cottrell said crews will try and use acoustic tools to coax the whale out of the lagoon.

Attempts to use recorded killer whale vocalizations to convince the calf to leave the lagoon have not been successful so far.

While the animal appears healthy now, Cottrell said it was still nursing from its mother and that the clock is ticking down on how long it can survive alone.

“We realize there is a time crunch here and we are looking at contingencies if the animal’s health deteriorates and it’s not willing to leave the lagoon, we may have to look at a potential capture,” he said. “We’re not there yet.”

Click to play video: 'Race to reuninte orphaned orca calf with its pod'
Race to reuninte orphaned orca calf with its pod

Capturing the orca would be a monumental task, requiring crews to fit it into a sling for transport to deeper water.

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The Ehattesaht First Nation says the lagoon area is known as Little Espinosa and is considered prime seal hunting waters for killer whales.

A necropsy of the mother orca, a 15-year-old Bigg’s killer whale, showed she was pregnant with a female fetus when she died.

The nation has given the young calf the name kwiisahi?is, meaning Brave Little Hunter.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver Island community mourning dead orca, trying to unite calf with pod'
Vancouver Island community mourning dead orca, trying to unite calf with pod

— With files from the Canadian Press

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