Dead Orca Calf is Three Year Old Victoria, One of the Endangered Southern Resident Orcas

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This young orca’s death following traumatic injuries has left everyone puzzled – there are only two predators that could inflict this kind of damage: another whale, or humans. Did she get hit by a boat? Have her hearing blown by underwater noise? Was she attacked by unrelated transient (dolphin eating) whales? We may never know, but hopes are high that her death will yield information about the diet, contaminants, genealogy, and stressors on this population of orcas.
That is little comfort though, and her death is another blow to the struggling population.

Little Victoria, L-112, was named for the beautiful city waterfront where she was first seen in January 2009. She had grown into a robust juvenile.

Playing with mom, L-86

L112 with big brother L106 Photo by Ken Balcomb on September 11, 2011

From Cascadia Research Collective:

A detailed external and internal examination was conducted on February 12, 2012 of a stranded killer whale that washed up just north of Long Beach, Washington on the morning of February 11. The 12’3” (3.75m) juvenile female was taken to a secure location for a full necropsy by biologists and volunteers from a number of organizations that are part of the Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network, including Portland State University, Cascadia Research, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Mammal Investigations, Seaside Aquarium, Seattle Seal Sitters, the Makah Tribe, and NOAA Fisheries.
The whale was moderately decomposed and in good overall body condition.
Internal exam revealed significant trauma around the head, chest and right side; at this point the cause of these injuries is unknown.
There have been reports of sonar activity in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the past week and a half and members of K and L pod were reportedly in the area at the time as well.
We do not know if this whale was among those in the area but the possibility is under consideration. The skeleton will be cleaned and closely evaluated by Portland State University for signs of fracture and the head has been retained intact for biological scanning. Additionally, samples were taken for a variety of analyses: genetics, contaminants, bacteriology, virology, food habits, biotoxins and histopathology. The processing of these tissue samples could take several weeks or months and will hopefully provide insight into the origin of the traumatic injuries or other factors that may have contributed to the death of this whale.

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