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Killer whale calf trapped in B.C. swims out of lagoon on her own

ZEBALLOS, B.C. — A young killer whale swam under a bridge and out of a Vancouver Island lagoon on Friday, finishing her own weeks-long rescue operation to get to the open ocean. 

The Ehattesaht and Nuchatlaht First Nations say the team is “ecstatic,” although the two-year-old whale still has to leave the Little Espinosa Inlet to reach ocean where it is hoped she’ll reconnect with her family pod. 

A statement from the rescue team says the calf swam past the area where her mother died, under a bridge and down the inlet “all on her own,” during high tide at about 2:30 a.m. Friday morning. 

“The team later found her in Espinosa Inlet and followed her from a distance as she moved toward Esperanza Inlet proper,” the statement says. 

The calf the First Nations named kwiisahi?is, or Brave Little Hunter, had been trapped in the lagoon since March 23 when her pregnant mother was beached at low tide and died. 

The statement says team members will “encourage” her toward the open ocean, where it’s hoped her calls will be heard by her family.

“Today, the community of Zeballos and people everywhere are waking up to some incredible news and what can only be described as pride for strength this little orca has shown,” the nations say. 

The statement says the watchers who remained overnight with the calf witnessed her swim under the bridge and down the inlet. 

“We are now in a new phase and while the team is ecstatic there will be increased patrols and protective measures taken to ensure that she has no contact with boats or people,” the statement says. 

The nations say they want as little human interaction with the calf as possible 

“Events like these have a deeper meaning and the timing of her departure will be thought about, talked about and felt for generations to come,” the statement says. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 26, 2024. 

The Canadian Press

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