REPORT ON WHALE STRANDING NEAR DUNGENESS, WA, January 3, 2002

For those following the orca situation here in the northwest, the most recent news is of an apparent stranding of a believed transient orca female and, possibly, her son. SeaWolf is attaching an article from the Peninsula Daily News that appeared today. We will try to keep you all informed of the situation as new arises. (News article follows...);

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Orca rescued from Dungeness Bay sandbar
Second killer whale dies; necropsy planned for today
By Luke Bogues
Copyright Peninsula Daily News, Port Angeles -- Published Jan. 3, 2001

SEQUIM - Rescuers freed a killer whale from a Dungeness Bay sandbar Wednesday afternoon but were too late to save a second whale found dead.

Officials will perform a necropsy today on the carcass of the female killer whale that died near Dungeness Bay. Workers were expected to mobilize today at daybreak to move the carcass to a location where scientists can determine what killed the marine mammal.

Officials also plan to monitor the status of the male killer whale rescuers freed shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday. Stranding Coordinator Brent Norberg of the National Marine Fisheries Service said the killer whale remained swimming in the bay after rescuers used rope to pull the male orca off the sandbar and into open water. Before nightfall, the whale was free swimming, but not heading toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca, he said.

Lingering killer whale?
This morning, the U.S. Coast Guard will assist rescuers determine if the living whale is lingering, Norberg said. Should the male orca beach itself again, rescuers will again pull it into open water and try to persuade it to leave the bay, he said. "That seems to be the least invasive method," Norberg said.

According to Howard Garrett, president of Greenbank-based Orca Network, the whales could be a mother and son because of the reported behavior of the male. The male is believed to be about 20 years old. The approximate age of the female has yet to be determined. "A mother and son have a very special and strong bond that lasts throughout their lives," he said. "It is typical behavior for the son to become very distraught after his mother dies." The son will often die shortly after the mother, Garrett said.

It is also possible the female is a "sister" or an "aunt" to the male, said Margaret Owens, cofounder of Peninsula Citizens for the Protection of Whales. Owens believes the female is "definitely a blood relative."

Killer whales found
Rescuers became aware of the stranded whale Wednesday morning when a resident on the bluff overlooking Dungeness Spit discovered the orca after hearing peculiar noises and notified officials, Dungeness Recreation Area manager John Pease said. Workers from the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge were the first on scene, Norberg said.

When rescue workers arrived, they found the male in water just inches below the top of the whale, Norberg said. The dead whale was later spotted when a Seattle-based helicopter crew flying over Dungeness Bay spotted the carcass, Norberg said. The dead female's carcass washed ashore just outside the bay.

Resident or transient?
Researchers are still unsure if the whales are from resident or transient pods, Norberg said. The orcas could be from one of three resident pods in Puget Sound or may have split off from migrating transient pods. Typically, transient whale hunt seals and resident whales eat salmon, officials have said. Washington State Patrol officials received reports of three killer whales hunting seals off Dungeness Spit on Tuesday. Researchers are unsure if the two whales found on Wednesday could be connected with those sightings, Norberg said.

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