Plans to rescue stranded orca calf by helicopter underway: DFO

Plans are now underway to airlift a stranded killer whale calf out of a remote tidal lagoon off northern Vancouver Island, in an effort to reunite the young orca with its extended family.

Fisheries Department and First Nations officials say the plans involve placing the two-year-old calf into a sling, lifting it out of the lagoon by helicopter and putting it in a holding net pen in the ocean while they wait for its family pod to be near for release.

The calf has been stuck in the lagoon alone for almost two weeks now, after its mother became trapped by a low tide and died on the rocky beach.

Since then, teams of experts have been on-site at the lagoon to try and coax the calf out while monitoring its health.

Leri Davies with Fisheries and Oceans Canada says with help from the Nuchalaht First Nation, recent efforts have been made to supplement the animal’s diet with seal meat.

Drone images are being analyzed to determine how much of the meat the calf is actually ingesting, and how the whale’s body condition is changing, Davies says.

The DFO, Ehattesaht First Nation, and other experts are all involved in the logistics and planning for the calf’s rescue, which Davies says is “well underway.”

Davies adds the waterproof drone has been donated by Strategic Natural Resources Consulting, an Ehattesaht-owned company, and is providing “invaluable data.”

The juvenile orca’s name, kʷiisaḥiʔis, roughly translates to Brave Little Hunter.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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