New drone footage captured near Alert Bay by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is offering the clearest look yet at an unusual, white-coloured juvenile orca on B.C.’s coast.
The young white orca is a transient, also known as Bigg’s, killer whale dubbed T46-B1B, or Tl’uk, a Coast Salish word for ‘moon.’ Transients are genetically distinct from the region’s critically endangered southern resident orcas, and eat seals and sea lions.
The DFO says the calf is eight to nine months old, and male.
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Experts say Tl’uk is not an albino, but have not yet settled on what caused its unusual white colouration.
One possible explanation offered by the Vancouver Aquarium is of a skin condition known as “grey patch syndrome” which head veterinarian Martin Haulena described as being akin to acne in humans.
Haulena told Global News in May that the discoloration could revert to standard colours or stay this way indefinitely.
Tl’uk was also recently spotted on June 15 by Campbell River Whale and Bear Excursions swimming in Seymour Narrows.