Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Newly orphaned orca calf remains stranded in lagoon near Zeballos


Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) have provided an update on the now stranded, orphaned orca calf whose mother beached herself and died over the weekend in a lagoon near Zeballos. 

On Sunday, March 24, the Ehattesaht First Nation, DFO and community members were able to secure the 14-year-old mother Biggs Killer Whale who had been beached and rolled on her side. 

At high tide, she was moved from inside the lagoon to a beach in close proximity.

Tragically for the Ehattesaht First Nation and all of those who tried to return her to the water, she drowned to death while beached at approximately 10:45 a.m. on Saturday, March 23rd.

Then DFO said that on Monday, March 25, Dr. Stephen Raverty, a veterinary pathologist with the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, led a necropsy on the dead mother killer whale. 

Dr. Raverty found that it was unclear whether the mother whale had been hunting and died as she was stranded on the beach during low tide, or had an underlying health condition. 

The veterinarian also found the deceased whale to be pregnant with an unborn whale fetus. 


DFO say the Ehattesaht First Nation conducted ceremonies for the unborn animal and made efforts to keep the whale cool and try to shepherd her out of the lagoon before she unfortunately died.

The neighbouring Nuchatlaht First Nation also reportedly provided support.

“As can be expected, it has been a very emotional few days for the Nations, community and response workers involved,” a DFO spokesperson wrote in a press release. 

The calf who is still alive in the lagoon has been the new focal point of this situation as the First Nations and DFO try to figure out how to reunite it with its pod. 

The calf has been named kʷiisaḥiʔis  (kwee-sa-hay-is); which is roughly translated to Brave Little Hunter.

To coax the calf out of the lagoon, responders have reportedly been playing recordings of the rest of kʷiisaḥiʔis’s pod. According to DFO, this is a strategy that has been successful in the past. 

Despite this, the attempt to coax kʷiisaḥiʔis out of the lagoon was ultimately unsuccessful. 

On Tuesday, March 26th, the Ehattesaht have also suspended their forestry operations to provide their support helicopter to see if the whale pod can be spotted.

The DFO said an extensive media brief would take place later in the week.

Curtis Blandy

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