Orphaned B.C. orca may be eating fish, vet says, as rescuers plan new strategy

ZEBALLOS, B.C. — A Vancouver Aquarium expert who's been involved in attempts to rescue an orphaned orca says the calf may be feeding on fish in the B.C. lagoon where she's been trapped for more than three weeks.

Veterinarian Martin Haulena says he got a good look at the calf during Friday's failed attempt to corral the whale, and it's possible she's foraging, "based on her body condition being maintained."

Haulena says there are salmon, perch, ling cod and rockfish in the Vancouver Island lagoon, and while those species aren't part of the normal marine mammal diet of a Bigg's killer whale, the calf could go after them if she was hungry.

The whale has been trapped alone in the tidal lagoon near Zeballos, 450 kilometres northwest of Victoria, since March 23, when her mother became stranded and died.

Rescue crews have been regrouping and planning a new strategy after the calf evaded capture last week, but Haulena says there's no date set for the next attempt.

The Fisheries Department, which has been helping co-ordinate the rescue with the Ehattesaht First Nation, says planning and logistics will be finalized over the next few days.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2024.

The Canadian Press