Attempts to rescue baby orca have led to a few surprises for experts, says DFO

Ongoing efforts to rescue a orphaned orca calf from a lagoon off Vancouver Island are turning out to be a bit of a learning experience for experts, an official with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) says.

On-site marine mammal experts and scientists have been surprised by the ineffectiveness of certain techniques being used to try to get the baby killer whale to move away from the area, over a sandbar, and into the open ocean.

“In the past, underwater playback sounds have been highly effective as an attractant to move whales out of a potentially dangerous situation,” the DFO said

“For the whale calf, k?iisa?i?is (kwee-sa-hay-is), these proved to be repelling.”

After this technique failed, rescuers attempted to use the pod sounds to try to move the mammal towards the sandbar, but this was also unsuccessful.

One method has worked better than others, however.

“The most promising technique so far has been the Oikomi metal pipes, suspended from a line of vessels that, when hit, acted as a sound wall to move the animal through the narrow exit point,” the DFO said.

“This is a technique widely used to deter marine mammals away from oil spills.”

This has so far been unsuccessful, however.

The two-year-old calf’s mother died in the lagoon last weekend while local residents tried to free the beached animal. A necropsy of the 15-year-old Bigg’s killer whale showed she was pregnant with a female fetus when she died. Rescuers have since been trying to lure the baby out of the area to reunite it with its pod.

Rescue efforts have stalled over the Easter long weekend due to unfavourable tide conditions, but plans are still being made for when this changes.

Paul Cottrell, the DFO’s pacific marine mammal coordinator, told CityNews Saturday that they are using drones to observe the baby and assess his condition while they wait for the tides to change. They are also using this time to get equipment organized for continuing efforts.

“We’re anxious to do as much as we can and the team is not giving up,” he said.

The juvenile orca’s name, k?iisa?i?is, roughly translates to Brave Little Hunter.

Anyone who witnesses whales being harassed or disturbed to call being asked to call the Fisheries and Ocean’s Observe, Record, Report/ Marine Mammal Incident Hotline at 1-800-465-4336,

“Reporting all marine mammal incidents to the DFO Marine Mammal Response Hotline ensures responses are initiated quickly and safely where possible,” the Ehattesaht First Nation said.

With files from Hana Mae Nassar, Raynaldo Suarez, and The Canadian Press.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today