Springer File – Part Two

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 34

Orca Orphan Will Stay Free

Scientists consider ways to transport young killer whale to Canadian waters

Thursday, March 14, 2002 – By ROBERT McCLURE, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

The orphaned baby orca that showed up off Vashon Island last month and stole Seattle’s heart will not be cooped up in an aquarium or sea park, federal fisheries officials announced yesterday.

Instead, a dawn-to-dusk whale watch is about to get under way to give marine mammal experts a better picture of the orca’s health. And the Canadian government has broached the idea of using a Hovercraft to ferry the killer whale home to Canadian waters.

The National Marine Fisheries Service recently sought proposals from aquariums and sea parks outlining how the orca, which at times appears lethargic and may be having trouble catching food, could be cared for in captivity.

“We’re not going to do it,” NMFS spokesman Brian Gorman said. “Our thinking early on was that we needed to have an emergency (capture) plan in place. We don’t really have plans for that at this point.”

Orca enthusiasts had decried the idea. They started soliciting donors to support their bid to keep the baby orca free and reunite it with its family, or pod. Backers of that plan included Earth Island Institute, the San Francisco-based group that bankrolled the release of Keiko, the orca that starred in the movie “Free Willy.”

“Having NMFS committing to do the monitoring program, which is the first thing we called for, this is only positive,” said Fred Felleman, a board member of the Orca Conservancy. “That was specifically the first part of our plan: Get baseline data before you go and schlep the animal around.”

The 1 1/2-year-old orca, known as A-73, was born to a pod that returns each summer to the waters around northern Vancouver Island in Canada. But its mother died, and the rest of the pod rejected the animal. She hung around another pod for a while, but then disappeared until she showed up alone in central Puget Sound.

She’s been there since last month, following the West Seattle-Vashon ferry, rubbing up against logs and capturing Seattle’s affection.

John Ford, head of the marine mammal research at the Canadian government’s Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, said the idea of borrowing the Canadian Coast Guard’s Hovercraft came up during a “seemingly endless” series of telephone conference calls among orca experts.

Officials want to see how well the orca is doing physically and determine whether it’s up to being captured for transport back to Canada. If so, it could go by Hovercraft, plane or boat. Or a floating “net pen” could be set up and towed behind a tugboat to gently nudge the orca home.

“We’re so far from determining that kind of thing,” Ford said.

Trying to move the whale in a floating pen would take several days and the trip could be interrupted by bad weather.

Orca activists had hoped the whale could be allowed to swim back to its home waters in a net pen so it would be less disoriented. But the Hovercraft could return the animal within a few hours, as opposed to a few days, putting less stress on it, Felleman said.

That would entail capturing the orca – a feat not tried in Washington since the taking of orcas for display in aquariums and sea parks was banned more than a quarter-century ago. NMFS plans to field its observation team, composed of marine mammal experts, in a few days, Gorman said. They will go out each day and carefully watch the animal.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 35 

If the team agrees the orca is healthy, it would relieve pressure to move the whale quickly, Gorman said. The experts will try to get a sample of the orca’s breath, which could tell them how much she’s been eating. If she’s sick, veterinary care could be arranged.

“Field observation… is a very imperfect way of trying to assess the condition of a whale or any wild animal,” Gorman said. “Wild animals are very good at covering up any problems. They don’t want to send any signals that say, ‘I’m sick. I’m vulnerable.'”

David Bain, a scientist on a panel organized by NMFS to advise the agency, said that the orca’s condition “seems to be up and down, different days and different times of day.”

But he added: “She seems to be holding up better than I expected. We’re getting more time to deal with the situation.”

Researchers and orca enthusiasts in small boats have been periodically checking on the orca, but some of their efforts have been thwarted by high winds.

“You worry that her condition may start going downhill the day you’re not out on the water looking for her,” Bain said, “and when you do get a good look at her, you realize it’s time to do something.

NMFS is going to round up a bigger boat that will allow researchers unfettered access. It’s still not a foregone conclusion that the orca can be reunited with her pod. The panel advising NMFS expressed skepticism, saying once an orca is ostracized by a pod, it has never been known to be accepted again. Ford, of the Canadian research station, said if the orca is returned to Canada, it would be relatively easy to find a place to keep her while she rebuilds her strength.

Researchers say they want to make sure the orca doesn’t get too friendly with people, because that would make it difficult for her to survive as a wild animal.

But if she remains in Puget Sound, it’s clear that she will have more and more contact with people as the weather warms.

“There’s all sorts of places in Canadian waters where she could be kept,” Ford said. “There are remote places where it’s quiet and the water quality is good. That is the kind of thing we’d be looking for.”

March 25, 2002

Fate of Orphaned Orca Could Be Decided Today

By Tracy Vedder, KOMO 4 News

SEATTLE – Scientists were to deliver their recommendations Monday on what to do about a young killer whale that has been separated from its pod.

The team of observers is reporting to the National Marine Fisheries Service. Members have spent more than a week monitoring the female orca, which was cut off from its pod and is stranded in Puget Sound.

But while the observers say the orca is “holding her own,” the group warns that the young female killer whale still has some serious health problems.

KOMO 4 News first went out with the group of observers over a week ago to keep tabs on the killer whale named Springer.

“This girl made a decision, she wants to live,” one observer told KOMO 4 News. For the next 11 days, Springer tried to prove him right.

The observers watched and recorded every move the little orca made: every time she came to the surface, every time she chased food, and every time she played with a log.

The group includes two biologists from NMFS, a volunteer from The Whale Research Center, a research biologist from the University of Washington, a frequent whale watcher from West Seattle, and Kelley Balcomb-Bartok from the Orca Conservancy.

Balcomb-Bartok says the group has reached this consensus: “We do not consider ourselves out of the woods, but we do consider this animal stable.”

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Springer is a juvenile orca, barely 2 years old. She wasn’t even weaned when her mother died.

When she was first spotted in Puget Sound in January, she had a skin infection, signs of malnutrition and a serious lung infection.

Without her orca pod, or family, to help take care of her, observers didn’t think she’d last.

“She is definitely pushing the odds,” says Balcomb-Bartok, “impressing all of us considering her young age and her situation.”

One of the problems continues to be that this whale stays in about a 4-square-mile area between Vashon Island and West Seattle. That severely restricts her ability to hunt – limiting her to just those salmon that stay in this small area of water.

But over the past 11 days, observers have seen her catching fish. Signs of the lung infection are gone. And the skin infection, while serious, is not life-threatening.

But playing with logs isn’t normal orca behavior.

“I think all of us agree, completely, that the psychological nature of this animal, she needs her social pod,” said Balcomb-Bartok.

The observers have spent many days aboard a boat owned by Bob Wood, with the American Cetacean Society and Project Sea Wolf. Orca Conservancy has also had a boat on the water.

They want the National Marine Fisheries Service to extend the observation window, which ended Sunday, because while Springer isn’t in immediate danger, her condition can change rapidly.

They want to keep tabs on the little orca who’s determined to survive, until she can be reunited with her orca family in Canada.

Non-profit organizations including the Orca Conservancy, American Cetacean Society and Project Sea Wolf are volunteering their services, including the use of boats, to NMFS to continue watching the young orca’s health.

April 2002

Screen shot 2013-03-15 at 12.15.32 PM

Presented by Orca Conservancy and Earth Island Institute

A73 Monitoring Proposal

SUBMITTED to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on 4/15/02.

Re: Supplemental Scientific Monitoring of the Orphaned Orca Calf A73 (aka “Springer”) and Boater Education via NMFS-Authorized Vessel

OVERVIEW

Orca Conservancy and Earth Island Institute seek authorization from National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to be the official platform from which ongoing biological and behavioral monitoring of A73 will be conducted. These activities will be conducted in cooperation with The Center for Whale Research and other institutions as sanctioned by NMFS.

Ken Balcomb of The Center for Whale Research has made available the 23′ Bayliner Bobby D. to be modified with identification markings clearly establishing an official vessel sanctioned by NOAA and National Marine Mammal Labs during the duration of the monitoring program.

Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 2.51.39 PMThe Bobby D. will be the exclusive authorized research/monitoring platform for National Marine Fisheries Service during its upcoming 10-day evaluation period, and any additional period of time as needed. In addition, OC/EII will conduct boater education activities during the duration of the program, complementing the weekend efforts of The Whale Museum’s Soundwatch Program. During this weekday monitoring program, observers on the platform will maintain the data collection protocols established during the initial 10-day monitoring period. In this way, any precipitous decline in A73’s health will be detected earlier than if NMFS were to rely primarily on weekend observations. Additionally, the Bobby D. will be in regular communication with the Washington State Ferries operating the Fauntleroy/Vashon runs notifying the crew as to the exact whereabouts of A73, helping to allay stated concerns of WSF of a possible collision with the orca.

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RESPONSIBILITIES

The vessel will be the responsibility of Orca Conservancy, and OC/EII will assume all expenses related to its transport from San Juan Island to Seattle and all insurance and operations, including any staffing outside of existing NMFS contracts. A slip has been donated to Orca Conservancy by the Port of Seattle’s Bell Harbor Marina in Elliott Bay for one month. NMFS will contract OC/EII for $1 to officiate this relationship. Anticipated scientific monitors include Ken Balcomb, Dave Ellifrit, Dr. David Bain, Dr. Brad Hansen, Dr. Marilyn Dahlheim, Fred Felleman, Candice Emmons, Kelley Balcomb and others who have expertise with whales in the field and are familiar with observation techniques. Activities will include independent ongoing observational data to assess baseline behavioral and physiological condition; i.e., respirations, activity levels and other indices of stress. All information collected, including data, photographs, video and acoustic recordings, will be made available to NMFS, Department of Fisheries and Oceans and The Center for Whale Research. The vessel and current/timely information will also be available to visiting veterinarians and biologists from NMML, the Vancouver Aquarium and the Canadian DFO to allow for consistent, professional observation, monitoring and communication between all responsible parties. 

As participants of the NMML monitoring team to date and in the recent Dungeness Spit stranding event, and as a key player in culling the expertise, potential funding and in-kind sources and the logistics needed for a possible translocation of A73, OC seeks to continue its role in facilitating and being a collaborative force in pulling together the diverse talents needed to make this a success. And the bridges that continue to be built between governmental and non-governmental organizations on both sides of the border, from Johnstone Strait to San Francisco, will be invaluable for future efforts of this kind (i.e., L98).

TIMELINE

Orca Conservancy has already secured a slip at Bell Harbor Marina in Elliott Bay and has approved moving the vessel to Seattle immediately. It is anticipated that OC/EII can have the Bobby D. in the water and begin its program by Monday, April 22. Adding to the urgency to this already unique situation is the increased concern by the Washington State Ferries as to A73’s proximity to the ferry terminal and the possible danger of harm or collision. This public/private partnership is an important step in preparing this animal for transport to her home waters in Canada, once that decision is made by NMFS.

ORCA CONSERVANCY and EARTH ISLAND INSTITUTE

Orca Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization advancing the welfare of Orcinus orca, the killer whale, and protecting the wild places on which it depends. Orca Conservancy teams up with some of the world’s top research institutions and non-governmental environmental organizations to address the most critical issues now affecting wild orca populations. Our urgent attention is focused on the endangered Southern Resident Community of orcas of the Pacific Northwest. These three pods, the Js, Ks and Ls, are declining rapidly, due to the degradation of the ecosystem and depletion of their prey resources, the accumulation of toxins in the marine environment, increased acoustic disturbance and harassment, and the destruction of nearshore habitats, the nurseries of the Inland Sea. Orca Conservancy Board Members are leaders in safeguarding vital fish habitats and advocating creative oil spill prevention measures in the Pacific Northwest, and in the training and certification of naturalists and whale watch operators. OC is committed to the welfare of all whales and dolphins, and is an authoritative source for information on cetacea in captivity and on-going studies on the feasibility of returning these remarkable animals to the wild.

Earth Island Institute (EII), founded in 1982 by veteran environmentalist David Brower, fosters the efforts of creative individuals by providing organizational support in developing projects for the conservation, preservation, and restoration of the global environment. EII provides activists the freedom to develop program ideas, supported by services to help them pursue those ideas, with a minimum of bureaucracy. Earth Island’s Project Network consists of more than 30 projects worldwide. Through innovative education and activist campaigns, we are addressing many of the most pressing social and environmental issues: Protecting rainforests, marine mammals, sea turtles, and indigenous lands; Promoting organic and sustainable agriculture, ecological paper alternatives, and the emerging Russian environmental movement; Pursuing community-based habitat restoration, reduction of marine pollution, and development of urban multicultural environmental leadership. MILESTONES include launching more than 50 environmental projects including such notable alumnae as Rainforest Action Network, International Rivers Network, and Urban Habitat; being awarded six Project Censored Awards for the Earth Island Journal, the first tree-free magazine in North America; organizing the largest and most successful consumer-led boycott resulting in the requirement that all tuna be dolphin-safe; successfully incorporating social and environmental mandates in California’s military base conversion process; bringing an end to commercial sea turtle exploitation in Mexico; organizing a highly influential series of Conferences on the Fate of Earth, bringing together leaders in the environmental, peace and social justice communities to seek common strategies; and bringing major public and industry attention to the opportunities to replace trees with agricultural alternatives like kenaf, wheat straw and corn for the manufacture of paper products.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 38

4/18/2002

Feds Outline Orca Intervention Plan

KING 5 News

VASHON, Wash. – In a forum Wednesday evening, federal officials decided if they have to intervene in the case of a young orphaned orca that’s hanging around near the Vashon Island ferry dock, they will make every effort to return her to the wild.

“We have a net pen ready and available,” Joe Scordino, National Marine Fisheries Service deputy regional administrator, told 150 people at a public hearing Wednesday night. “We intend to keep the animal in the environment.”

 At that, the crowd burst into applause.

In a three-step process, the whale, nicknamed Springer, would be captured here, then moved to a pen in Canadian waters for medical attention from the Vancouver, British Columbia, Aquarium staff. Then she would be moved closer to the waters off Vancouver Island, where her killer whale family group, which biologists call A-pod, normally lives from June to September.

“If we go in, there will be a rehabilitation phase,” he said, explaining intervention would only occur if the whale is found to need medical attention. She is eating and active, but a skin ailment, common among killer whales, is worsening.

Scientists also are concerned about a paint thinner-like odor on her breath, a condition called ketosis. It can indicate starvation or diabetes, both considered unlikely, or a possibly genetic metabolism problem that can be serious, said veterinarian Dave Huff of the Vancouver Aquarium.

Huff said the problem doesn’t appear to be critical right now.

“Nobody says it doesn’t matter,” he said. “You can wait until a crisis happens or you can say ‘That’s not normal, nothing that’s alive should breathe like that’ ” and intervene.

Marilyn Joyce from Fisheries and Oceans Canada said Canada stands ready to assist.

An advisory committee will be meeting over the next week or two and will be asked to decide whether action should be taken soon, said Bob Lohn, regional administrator for the fisheries service.

“She is stable, she’s feeding, she’s growing… but with the symptoms we’re seeing, she’s not a healthy whale,” Lohn said.

She is eating and active, but a skin ailment is worsening.

First spotted near the Vashon ferry dock in January, the young female orca was identified by her markings as the whale researchers had dubbed A73 for her birth order in A-pod. Scientists say her mother died sometime last year and the orphan has been absent from her pod for months.

A-pod never enters Puget Sound, fisheries service spokesman Brian Gorman said earlier. The young female may have found her way south following salmon runs late last year.

The sole surviving member of A73’s immediate family is a grandmother, who is apparently “not that good a grandma,” fisheries service researcher Marilyn Dahlheim said in a recent interview. One orca calf going it alone for months is unusual, but right now in the Northwest there are two.

The other – a male from the San Juan Islands-based L-pod, dubbed L-98 – was spotted on the west side of Canada’s Vancouver Island last fall. He’s apparently getting along OK – catching enough fish to survive, like his counterpart in Puget Sound.

The Associated Press and KING 5’s Elisa Hahn contributed to this report.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 39

April 19, 2002 – 9:29 AM PDT

BABY ORCA BETTER, BUT NOT OUT OF DANGER

CBC News

Vancouver – Scientists say the orphan killer whale in Puget Sound known as “A-73” or “Springer” is doing better, and they have decided to leave her where she is for now.

The two-year-old orca was found by herself in January in the waters around Vashon Island near Seattle.

There were worries at the time that she was dying of starvation, but observers say she is now eating well.

However, Michael Harris of the Orca Conservancy in Seattle says Springer isn’t out of danger yet.

“They’ve been able to take some breath tests and she has two forms of what’s called ketosis, which means her breath is indicating that there’s something going on with her, physiologically that’s just not quite right,” he says.

Speaking with Rick Cluff on CBC Radio’s “Early Edition,” Harris says scientists are continuing to monitor the young whale’s progress, and will make a final decision this summer on whether to move her.

Sunday Sports Section, Seattle-Times/Seattle Post-Intelligencer: April 28, 2002

Let’s Leave Little Orphan Orca Alone

By Ron C. Judd
Seattle Times staff columnist

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Photo: Fred Felleman, Orca Conservancy

Maybe she just found a warm spot.

You know how it is: You’re out swimming in a lake or bay, in typically organ-shrinking cold Northwest waters, when suddenly, out of the blue, you’re enveloped by an inexplicably warm spot of water.

This, we’re beginning to speculate, is what’s keeping that little orca — known alternately as Springer, Boo, and by her native name, Dances With Propellers — tooling around in the shipping lanes between Vashon Island and Fauntleroy.

Alas, if we’re right here — and, really, how often have we ever been wrong? — this warm-spot theory might actually be bad news for the whale. In an alarming example of revisionist history, a friend once informed us that some of the best “warm spots” we used to enjoy frolicking in along the shores of Hood Canal, for example, were most likely the result of the business end of a septic tank.

Put that in your goggles and slosh it around.

Nevertheless: The young, apparently orphaned whale, for reasons that may or may not involve water quality, has double-parked in the ferry lanes between West Seattle and Vashon and refuses to leave.

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This has stirred up all sorts of media froth, with TV news reporters appearing “live” (as opposed to their usual state of being) at community forums, which are packed with people in SmartWool Socks who frankly couldn’t give a rip about the neglected kids across the street, but by gosh want to make sure nothing bad happens to that big black-and-white mammal whose mind they can clearly read from their personal upper-ferry-deck Command Post for the Known Universe.

At these forums, the orca-philes are informed by Federal Sub-Adult-Whale Behavior Management Specialists that the beast’s behavior is not normal for a whale. Normally at this time of year, the whale, which is Canadian, would be up north with her pod, quite probably watching the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But this orca, for reasons known only to her and her god, hangs out in Elliott Bay, apparently waiting for someone to come tell her what to do.

In between all the understandable pangs of love and concern for the creature in the continuing whale-disposition negotiations, a central question never seems to get asked or answered: So what?

It’s a whale, people. Whales, like Courtney Love and other finned species with sharp teeth and bad breath, are wild. In the wild, mothers die, and their children sometimes follow suit. Maybe we should, having tried everything else over the years, just leave the thing alone and let nature take its course.

So far, whale experts have decided to let her be, but their Zodiac boats are ready to leap into action, potentially capturing and moving the whale, if she appears troubled.

Which is fine, assuming that man (and by this we refer to all three sexes: male, female and infomercial professional bodybuilder) knows what the whale wants and knows how best to accomplish that.

Being fresh out of people who speak orca, we’re left to speculate. Fortunately, that’s right up our alley.

Deciding to join the other 2.5 million orca experts in this area, we took a drive the other day over to Alki, where our founding fathers and mothers stepped ashore and promptly established the first Starbucks.

Just as they must have so long ago, we stood on the shore, sipped a half-caf, 2 percent caramel macchiato, gazed through the floating chunks of Styrofoam flotsam, and scanned the horizon for the great whale.

Didn’t see her.

We did, however, feel a vibe. Moments later, as we dined on some of the misguided whale’s saltwater second cousins at Sunfish, a list of explanations for her puzzling behavior spewed forth with the urgent ferocity of a tartar-sauce pump at lunch hour:

• Personal protest: She goes when Paul Abbott goes and not a moment before.

• Fashion statement: The whale is demanding an apology from King County Sheriff Dave Reichert — not foranything he’s ever done, but for that cheeseball brown-and-yellow uniform.

• Finally tired of the annoying personal questions from Canadian Customs agents in Blaine.

• Is responding to Internet traffic-cam report of a visiting Makah canoe jackknifed in Admiralty Inlet.

• Standing guard to protect rich Vashon dwellers against invading hordes of gravel-pit developers and organic- lavender ranchers.

• Unable to swim since being stunned by the news that rich people bought big waterfront houses along Rich Passage, sued the state when waves landed on their beach — and won.

• Thinks she has, at long last, located the watery grave of the Paul Schell administration.

• Still has not heard from Oprah.

Anything’s possible. But there’s only one truly likely explanation.

Like most of the rest of us, the whale simply cannot decipher that blasted ferry schedule for Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth, the Bermuda Triangle of arrivals and departures.

Count on it: Soon as she figures out why they load half the cars on the boats backward, she’ll be outta here.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 41

May 2002

5/2/2002

Experts Say Orphan Orca Should Be Captured

Feds Not Convinced

The Associated Press

SEATTLE – A scientific panel says an orphaned killer whale playing in nearby waters should be captured at least long enough to get a blood sample, but federal fisheries officials say they’re not convinced that’s the best thing to do.

“There’s enough evidence that this animal is not normal and its chances are not real good,” said Jim McBain, an advisory panel member and senior veterinarian for the corporation that runs the Sea World attractions. “If you’re ever going to deal with something that is unhealthy, the best time to do it is now.”

The orca turned up in the waters between Vashon and West Seattle in January. The scientists advising the National Marine Fisheries Service have recommended that the agency move now to assess the orca’s condition and leave time for veterinarians to treat her before her Canadian pod returns to its summer home off Vancouver Island and any reunion is attempted.

But Fisheries Service spokesman Brian Gorman countered that the whale appears “fairly healthy,” and federal officials are concerned that moving her from the waters off Vashon Island might cause stress that could harm her health.

“We have to balance the current risk of leaving her alone with the potential risk of intervening, capturing her, putting her in a net pan and then moving her,” Gorman said. “Those risks are considerable.” Gorman added: “They had an opinion that if we’re going to intervene, we should do it sooner rather than later, but they didn’t come up with any standard that would determine if we need to act immediately.”

Known as A73, for her birth order in her pod, the orca turned up in the waters between Vashon and West Seattle in January.

Scientists know her mother is dead but don’t know the circumstances that separated her from her pod.

Early last month, results of a breath sample confirmed scientists’ suspicions that the orca is suffering from ketosis – a condition that can occur when a large amount of fat is burned due to a shortage of food.

A73 also suffers from a skin condition that has been getting worse and could lead to infection of her blowhole. She is also experiencing respiratory problems and is underweight.

“She’s far enough gone that if you wait for things to get worse, there’s not much you can do for her,” McBain said.

The 12-member panel of scientists and advocates for orcas want the whale reunited with her pod when the other orcas return in early summer.

But questions remain about whether A73, even if nursed back to health, would be accepted by her pod. Scientists say they are unaware of any orcas that were welcomed back into a pod after a sustained absence.

Meanwhile, boating season opens on Saturday, and the Fisheries Service wants boaters to keep their distance from the young whale.

The Soundwatch program out of The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor has been patrolling Puget Sound, along with Orca Conservancy and Project SeaWolf, warning passing boaters not to get closer than 400 yards from the orca.

“We’ve not had a problem to date,” Gorman said. “That may change as the weather warms up, but I think people are aware this is a special killer whale.”

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 42

OC Web Release 5/14/02

History of A73, or “Springer”

From OC Advisory Board Member Helena Symonds of OrcaLab

A73 belongs to the A24 matriline of the A4 pod which is part of the Northern Resident Community of orcas of the Pacific Northwest, primarily frequenting the waters of the “inside passage” of British Columbia. Their range has been known to include the southern waters of Alaska.

A73 was first seen in the Johnstone Strait area in July 2000. Her mother, A45 (“Sutlej”) was born in 1983. A45 had one previously known calf, A68 born in 1997. A68 did not survive beyond the 1997 season. A45 and A73 were not seen during the 2001 season although their pod was present for a total of 57 days from early July until November.

A73’s grandmother, A24 (“Kelsey”) was born in 1967 and was still alive as of November, 2001. She has had seven offspring: two of these; A64,”Schooner”, b. 1995 and A71, “Magin”, b. 1999), were alive as of November, 2001.

There was some noticible “separation” between A45 and A24 during the 2000 season. When in the Johnstone Strait area together, A45 tended to associate with the A35s. A35 has 3 offspring of her own and she belongs to the A11 matriline of the A4 pod. This preference was first noticed in 1999, the season before the birth of A73. The pairing of A45 and A35 was noteworthy as both these two young mums seemed to “prefer” each other’s company over that of their respective mothers. They even left the area together for periods of time, leaving their mums entirely.

In 2001, the A24s were the first A4s to arrive, on July 7th. Even though A45 was not present there was no immediate concern, given the previous season’s events. A11 and two of her offspring finally arrived on July 21st and when the A35s arrived the next day, without any sign of A45, we became very concerned that A45 and her young calf had died. All the A4s, once in the area, joined up and associated closely for most of the rest of the season. They were last seen on November 17, 2001.

A73 was most likely seen further north of the Johnstone Strait area, nearer to Port Hardy, in September 2001. Graeme Ellis of the Pacific Biological station in Nanaimo had several encounters with G50 (of the G17 pod) who was accompanied by a young calf. Given the close proximity of the calf to G50 Graeme believed the calf must be G50’s own calf. The G17s, to whom G50 belongs, have not been seen regularly over the last few years and Graeme thought, as the calf was already larger than what would be expected of a year old calf, that she must have been simply missed between encounters. Although, the G17s are part of the northern resident community they belong to G clan which has a separate acoustic tradition from A clan, to which A73 belongs. Social interactions between matrilines of clans is fairly common within the community.

Adoptions within the community are little understood and there have not been many (if any) clear cases. But the following instances show that orcas do adapt sometimes to life when left without a mother.

*In the “ID book” the possibility is mentioned that I04 and I41 are not twins after all but that one of them may have been adopted after its mother’s death.

*A51 and A61, in 1997 after the death of their mum A25, came in on the “coat tails” of the A8s who were (and are) very closely associated with the A12s. Each year following the physical gap between them and the other whales became smaller, until in 2001 A51 and A61 were often in tight with the A8s and A12s. The A43s joined these other groups in 2001, which is also interesting as they recently lost A23 and A27. There may be a tendency for A51/61 and the A43s to be developing a closer association in the years to come. In 2001 they came in together and left together after spending the summer in the company of the A12s and A8s. This might suggest two things: that A51/61 have gained confidence; and as the A12/A8 group with all these add-ons is getting so big (the A4s were there most of the time too) that for ease the group is dividing up a bit – but we will see what happens next season.

*A5 and A26 did not immediately go with there own group after the death of A9 (1990) They hung around the Johnstone Strait “core area” for a while afterwards in January 1991, then left. In the next season summer 1991) they did not “turn up” with the A8s (their supposed sister’s group) but came in independently. When the A8s left, A5 and A26 stayed in the area with the A36s (a completely different pod). For a long time before these two “groups” actually merged and began to swim together, they paralleled each other, most often swimming on opposite sides of the Strait. When the A5s turned up a few weeks later the two brothers finally went off with their own pod. It was almost a year after A9’s death.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 43

So, “adoption” or re-integration might be a quick or slow process depending on the circumstances. There was certainly a separation happening between A24 and A45 so perhaps A73 may find the A35s a better fit. She may be “acting” as her own (i.e., A45’s) matriline independent of A24. Her ability to survive this far is a good indication of her own innate strengths. Giving A73 a chance to associate with other close relatives and the larger northern resident community seems a reasonable course to follow & may lead to her integration with them. Getting her back to the Johnstone Strait area by late June or early July could accomplish this.

Re: the yearly arrival dates; seasonal length of stay in the Johnstone Strait/Blackfish Sound area; the description of which of the matrilines (of A4 pod) to arrive in the area first; and the departure.

As you will see both matrilines of the A4s have come in to this area together for the majority of the years. There had been some separation between the two matrilines in the 1980s but this gradually changed in the ’90s. However, that being said the A11 matriline has shown signs that it is changing with A35 and her offspring becoming more independent of her mother, A11. So it has not been unusual to see A11 and her son A13 and youngest daughter, A56 on their own from time to time after arrival. Complicating this scene A45 (A73’s mother) in the last two years started to spend less time near her mother, A24, choosing instead to swim with A35 and her offspring.

Much of A73’s time in the Johnstone Strait area during her first summer was in the company of A35’s group and not with her grandmother. It is possible that if A73’s grandmother (A24) does not accept her that there may be a place for her in the A35’s. We have seen two other orphans work their way into a closely but not directly related group. The process of acceptance took at least a whole season. 

The A4s have the habit of coming in during the first part of the season, staying quite a while but then taking off mid August and then returning later in the season. They are often here in the late Fall but of course, conditions are not very good after October. This is why the urgency to get her back to JS asap. The A4s have been spotted on the central coast before they drop down to this area but I don’t believe there is confidence in the regularity of these events, rather hit and miss. Also, the logistics of rehab on the central coast would be difficult to pull off. There is already a lot of local support for A73 that will greatly help the Vancouver Aquarium/DFO plans and the coverage of this area is so extensive now it will not be as hard to keep track of her (for a while at least). We will be able to track the movements of her pod, while they are here, both day and night, throughout much of the “core” area.

From Dr. David Bain, Orca Conservancy Advisory Board Member…

A10, A73’s great-grandmother had a son and two daughters. A4, the son, was the whale A73’s pod was named for. A11 was a daughter whose offspring and grand-offspring have fared well. A24, the other daughter, was Springer’s grandmother. A10 had her last offspring in 1983. A10 and at least one other whale in Springer’s pod were shot that summer. A10 and her last offspring both died over the winter after the shooting. A13, A11’s son, survived being shot.

A24 has had seven offspring, but only two are still alive. Her first offspring was born in 1981, but died shortly after birth. A45, Springer’s mother, was born in 1983. A24’s low success at rearing calves has parallels with females the same age in the Southern Resident Community. In Southern Residents, high levels of PCBs and DDTs may be affecting reproduction.

A45, like her mother, lost her first calf shortly after birth. A73, A45’s second calf was born prior to the summer of 2000. They were seen together many times that summer in Johnstone Strait, so that is where we plan to return A73 to the wild. She and her mother were last seen together in September 2000, by Marilyn Dahlheim of the National Marine Fisheries Service near Ketchikan, Alaska.

In 2001, A4 pod returned to Johnstone Strait without Springer and her mother. Both were feared dead. However, an unidentified calf was seen traveling with an adolescent female in one of the G pods (adolescent females are frequently seen babysitting in the Northern Resident Community). The calf was later identified as A73.

In a Southern record for the pod, some Gs were sighted by NMFS off Oregon in the fall of 2001. It is not known whether Springer or her babysitter were with that group.

In early January, there were reports of a baby whale near Sequim, Washington, where two transients stranded (a live adult male and dead adult female). While rescue efforts were underway for the male at Sequim, there were reports of a baby orca in Swinomish Channel. A series of sightings of a baby whale were received between there and Vashon Island over the next two weeks.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 44

Mark Sears reported Springer’s arrival at Vashon Island (across Puget Sound from Seattle) on January 14. Ken Balcomb attempted to identify her, but concluded she was not any of the Southern Residents he knew. It made sense to associate her with the transients that had recently stranded, but she did not look like a transient. Due to the poor condition of her skin, it was not possible to photoidentify her.

Joe Olson of ACS then obtained some sounds from her. One call obtained was characteristic of A clan whales (the three A Pods, B, C, D, H and some of the I pods), but since several pods used that call, that was only enough to conclude that she was a stray Northern Resident, hundreds of miles away from where she belonged. As the condition of her saddle improved a little, a tentative match with the G Pod calf was made. At the time, there was no explanation for why a G Pod calf would be making A clan calls.

Fred Felleman later obtained a good photograph of A73. David Bain obtained calls that were clearly from A4 Pod. Helena Symonds pointed out that A73 was the only whale in A4 Pod that was the right size to be the Vashon Island orca. The next morning, Fred’s photograph was matched with Marilyn Dahlheim’s photographs of A45 and A73 from Southeast Alaska, and her identity was finally known.

Marilyn Dahlheim sent copies of her photos to Graeme Ellis. Graeme confirmed that the young whale he had seen with the G’s was A73, not a new G calf as originally thought. Graeme also confirmed that A45 had not been seen since 2000, so A73 was an orphan.

Planning to return A73 to her natal community started immediately. A4’s had been seen in Northern British Columbia in the spring, but large day ranges at that time of year made it unlikely that A73 could keep up with her pod. The optimal time for her return was found to be in early July. At that time of year, salmon are plentiful. A73’s pod passes by the same place a few days a week on average, so if it took time for her to get used to her pod again, she’d get several chances to reaffiliate with them. In addition, most, or sometimes all, of the Northern Resident Community passes through Johnstone Strait in July or August each year. This would give A73 the chance to be adopted by another pod as happened in 2001.

However, by September, fish abundance drops off sharply. A4 Pod leaves Johnstone Strait, and sometimes travels as far away as Southeast Alaska. That is, there is only a brief window of time during which A73 is likely to be successfully reintegrated with the Northern Resident Community.

Rather than rush into the rescue effort, NMFS looked for evidence that the rescue was likely to be successful. A major concern was that A73’s ketosis reflected a genetic defect that would lead to an early death without ongoing treatment, because so many of her aunts and uncles, her sibling and her mother died at an early age.

As A73 became more tame, it became possible to do blood tests on her. The blood tests showed no signs of genetic defects, so NMFS authorized the rescue effort. Now, we can only hope that all her medical problems (the ketosis (a symptom of which is the smell of nail polish remover or paint thinner in her breath), an infestation of parasitic worms, anemia, her skin condition, a respiratory problem, low body weight, and poor overall physical condition due to inactivity) respond to treatment quickly enough that she can rejoin her natal community before the window of opportunity closes.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 49

Thursday, May 16, 2002

B.C. Gives More Time on Orca

Aquarium Warns U.S., “We Need to Get Cracking” to Reunite Her with Family

By ROBERT MCCLURE
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

As federal authorities waited yesterday for blood-test results on the orphaned baby orca in Puget Sound, a B.C. aquarium softened its deadline for withdrawing from an effort to reunite the whale with her family in Canada.

The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre had told the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service that if a decision were not made to capture the orca by yesterday, the aquarium would no longer be poised to raise money to help the effort.

“If we’re going to have her reunited with her family in mid-July, we need to get cracking,” said aquarium spokesman Angela Nielsen. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done.”

Aquarium President John Nightingale warned that unless the whale is captured and her medical problems remedied, “It’s going to die, day by day, on the evening news.”

But the fisheries service said it is waiting for blood-test results to reveal whether the orca, known as A-73 as well as its official nickname, Springer, has an incurable genetic disorder. The results could take until early next week.

“Once the whale is captured, if it is subsequently discovered that the whale has a chronic, untreatable health problem that would preclude her from being reunited, then we would be faced with … a choice between two equally repugnant alternatives: Put her in an aquarium for permanent treatment, or at least permanent capture; or somehow return her to Puget Sound, where she’s been all along,” said Brian Gorman, the fisheries service spokesman in Seattle.

The whale appeared in Puget Sound in mid-January. Scientists identified her as coming from an orca family, or pod, that returns early each summer to Johnstone Strait, by Vancouver Island. The pod migrates away in September or early October. The whale, which is 1 1/2 to 2 years old, is suffering from something that causes its breath to carry an odor like chemicals known as ketones. Usually that’s a sign of starvation, but the whale is eating.

Scientists now suspect is it indicative of an inherited metabolic disorder, meaning something is wrong with her digestive system. A blood test taken last week showed she does not have diabetes or a certain kind of virus. Results on a test for the metabolic disorder should be ready today, the aquarium’s Nielsen said.

The aquarium, responding to a request by the fisheries service, first proposed on March 1 to capture the orca and reunite her with her family. Two weeks ago, a scientific panel assembled by the fisheries service advised the agency to capture the whale. But the agency wants to know more about her condition. Nightingale, the aquarium president, wrote to the fisheries service last Thursday, saying “our plan cannot be implemented unless the plan is approved by Wednesday, May 15.”

If not, he wrote, “we are willing to reopen the possibility of our involvement but will not undertake a major fund- raising drive.”

The whale must be reunited with its pod by about mid-July so scientists can watch her until the weather turns bad in mid-September, the aquarium says. In the past, baby orcas in similar situations have been rejected by their pods. Aquarium veterinarian David Huff said if the orca turns out to have an incurable disease, she should be captured and studied anyway to learn about the inherited malady. Seven of the last eight calves born to her immediate family have died.

Nightingale and Nielsen said that yesterday’s deadline could be pushed back a few days.

“It’s being portrayed in the press as us holding a gun to NMFS’ head, but that’s not true,” Nightingale said.

Said Nielsen: “I think we would give them a day or two’s grace. But if we’re talking about a week or two, the deadline has passed.”

But some local orca advocates say withdrawal of the aquarium from the fund-raising effort may not be a huge deal.

The Seattle-based Orca Conservancy, working with the Earth Island Institute of San Francisco, remains confident the public will donate to a reunification effort, said Orca Conservancy President Michael Harris.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 46

Friday, May 17, 2002

No Genetic Disorder Detected in Orca, Raising Hopes of Pod Reunion

By ROBERT McCLURE
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

The orphaned baby orca of Puget Sound doesn’t have a genetic disorder that dooms her to an early death, blood tests showed yesterday, buoying orca advocates who want to reunite the killer whale with her family in Canada.

“This is really, really good news. God, I am so happy for that whale,” said Michael Harris, president of the Seattle-based Orca Conservancy. “I think we’ve got a whale going north.”

Not so fast, said the National Marine Fisheries Service and Canadian authorities.

The fisheries service, which must approve any intervention to help the orca, has taken the position that she should be left alone to fend for herself in Puget Sound. But yesterday’s finding could change that, agency spokeswoman Janet Sears said.

“Yes, it certainly does open the options,” Sears said. “We need to go back and reassess.”

The agency will reconvene a panel of scientific experts Monday to ask their opinion, Sears said. The scientists two weeks ago unanimously advised the agency to capture the orca, officially designated A-73 and nicknamed “Springer.” Capturing the 1 1/2- to 2-year-old, 11-foot-long whale would allow veterinarians to more fully assess her health, the scientists reasoned.

The fisheries service has resisted that suggestion, citing the possibility that an inherited genetic disorder could doom the creature. If that were the case, the agency said, it would face two unpalatable choices: putting the orca in an aquarium, which is highly unpopular with the public, or capturing her only to release her again in the same waters.

Paul Spong, a Canadian whale researcher and advisory panel member, said the blood-test result is significant. “You pretty much now have a situation where the major concerns have probably been dealt with in terms of health issues,” Spong said. “Perhaps NMFS will feel more open to intervention.”

The orca, which weighs an estimated 1,500 pounds, first showed up in the waters between Vashon Island and West Seattle in mid-January. Scientists schooled in orcas’ vocal patterns traced her to a family, or pod, of orcas that returns each summer to Johnstone Strait, by Vancouver Island. Her mother died, and she was somehow separated from her pod at a stage of development akin to that of a human toddler.

Somehow, she has managed to learn on her own how to catch fish. But she has a skin condition and may have other health problems. An odor on her breath could be from eating too little, scientists say, and she sometimes acts strangely lethargic.

In Canada, officials said they would need more information before agreeing to have the orca returned. And serious questions remain about whether the orca’s family would accept her; other young orcas in similar situations have been rejected.

The blood test result “certainly does take off the list one of the biggest concerns,” said Marilyn Joyce, marine mammal coordinator for the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

However, Joyce added, until a full picture of the orca’s health emerges, the Canadian government will reserve judgment on whether A-73 should be brought back to Canada. Authorities there are concerned that the whale might carry a contagious disease that would spread to orcas there.

“Our responsibility is the management of all marine mammals,” Joyce said. “Our primary concern is that we don’t do something that might be harmful to the northern (orcas.)”

The news about the blood test came shortly after U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., called on the fisheries service to act quickly.

“The time has come for NMFS to develop a definitive action plan and commit to a timetable for making a decision on how to proceed,” Cantwell wrote in a letter to Regional Director Bob Lohn.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 47

 5/20/2002

Decision to Move Orca Getting Closer

Reported by Glenn Farley, KING 5 News

SEATTLE – A decision on what to do about the orphaned orca appears close. Monday, the Scientific Advisory Committee, which is guiding the National Marine Fisheries Service to a decision, is recommending that the whale be captured and moved to her home waters in Canada.

The committee was at odds with the National Marine Fisheries Service several weeks ago when it recommended that there should be human Intervention. Now it appears that NMFS is more willing to go along.

The orca they call Springer, or A73, has been the subject of debate for months now – from leaving her alone to possibly die in the waters of Puget Sound to trying to reunite her with her home pod in the waters in Canadian waters.

Even those who said something should be done could not always agree on exactly what.

Monday, both U.S. and Canadian members of the Scientific Review Committee met on the phone and made the following recommendation:

“It would be to capture, to do more tests to diagnosis what illness she’s got and then there was the recommendation to move her up to Johnstone straight, where her pod originally came from,” said Janet Sears, NMFS.

Blood tests performed last week found no serious, untreatable medical conditions, but scientists do want more tests to determine the cause of a problem known as ketosis, a paint-thinner smell on her breath.

But even if further testing still can find no serious problems, the government says there are risks and a decision on what to do has not been made.

“We do have to balance all of these different issues of the risk to the animal, if we go to capture her, because that’s very stressful to the animal, particularly if she’s not well, versus the kinds of things we might be able to do for her,” said Sears.

The original plan approved by the Canadian government called for her to be moved to an inlet near Vancouver, B.C., where veterinarians could better monitor her rehabilitation.

But there always was the option of moving her directly to a cordoned-off bay in a remote wilderness off northern Vancouver Island, and under the watchful eye if Dr. Paul Spong. This is good news for one of the organizations pushing to have the orca returned to her native pod, which is expected to arrive there in July.

“I think it’s a great thing that we get her straight up there. And if we can minimize the amount of time she needs to spend in the net pen, that would also be preferable,” said Fred Felleman, Orca Conservancy.

Just how soon this could all happen is not yet known. The Vancouver Aquarium had called for the whale to be moved or captured as soon as Tuesday. That clearly will not happen.

The NMFS says the decision on their part is much closer today.

Friday, May 24, 2002

NMFS Decides to Capture Orphan Orca

By ELIZABETH MURTAUGH
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

Scientists will try to capture an ailing orphan orca that’s been languishing in Puget Sound for several months and return her to her native pod in Canada, the National Marine Fisheries Service said Friday.

Officials of the service said that while it would be a high-risk operation, it would be best to remove the young female killer whale from the busy waters off Vashon Island as soon as possible. After a few weeks of rehabilitation in a pen, the whale would be relocated to Johnstone Strait off Canada’s Vancouver Island, the summer home of her pod.

“I want to emphasize this is a first. It has never been done before,” Bob Lohn regional administrator for NMFS, told a news conference. “We don’t know what the prospects are, but we think it is worth doing.”

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 48

 Lohn said a team of scientists was being assembled to determine the best way to capture, treat, transport and prepare the young female whale for return to her pod. Although whales have been captured in the wild and placed in captivity, no one has yet captured a wild whale and reintroduced it into a pod.

No schedule has been set, he said, but officials hope to capture the whale in two or three weeks, spend another two weeks giving it medical tests and treatment, then transport it to the strait in a day if possible. The whale then would be kept in a netted-off section of a bay for about two weeks or until her native pod arrives on its annual migration south, approximately mid- to late July.

Lohn had no cost estimate for the operation, but said it could easily be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. He said NMFS may apply for federal grants to help pay the cost.

Lohn repeatedly emphasized the risk of the capture and relocation, but said it was better than leaving the whale, whose health appears to be deteriorating, where it is. The whale lately has been approaching boats and lingers near the busy Vashon Island ferry terminal, about three miles west of Seattle.

“We don’t want this whale to substitute boats for fellow orcas,” he said.

A panel of U.S. and Canadian researchers, activist observers, and staff from the Vancouver, British Columbia, Aquarium recommended earlier this month that the whale be captured and treated.

But the fisheries service held off, citing concerns that moving her might cause stress that could harm her health.

“We’re really proceeding on very unknown ground,” Lohn said.

A73 – her name, based on her pod and birth order – was first spotted near the Vashon Island ferry dock in mid-January. According to Canadian researchers, her mother, A-45, is dead. The 1- to 2-year-old calf apparently was left behind by her pod, where her only known relative was a grandmother.

The whale has two apparent health problems. She has a skin ailment that has led to discoloration and sloughed skin over much of her body, now nearing sensitive areas around her blowhole and eyes.

She also has ketosis, a condition that makes breath smell like paint thinner. In humans, ketosis can be a symptom of starvation, diabetes or metabolic problems – all problems ruled out in the orca’s case by observation and blood-test results.

Also known as “Boo,” and “Springer,” A73 spends her days catching steelhead, loafing near the surface, and sometimes spending hours rubbing against sticks or logs, possibly because she craves the physical contact she would have if she were with her family group.

Some activists insist the whale should be left alone, arguing that intervention could result in a lifetime in captivity.

It’s unclear whether A73, even if nursed back to health, would be accepted by her pod, which usually spends June through September near Vancouver Island. Scientists say they are unaware of any orcas that have been welcomed back into a pod after a sustained absence.

While solo juvenile orcas are rare, scientists are aware of two in the region this year – A73 and L-98, a male from L-pod based near Washington’s San Juan Islands who has been living on the west side of Vancouver Island since last fall.

Activists are seeking endangered-species protection for the 78 killer whales in three San Juan Island pods, which are struggling with pollution and dwindling populations of salmon, their primary food.

Killer whales, actually a kind of dolphin, are found in all the world’s oceans.

5/24/2002

Orca to be Captured, Returned to Canada

Reported by Glenn Farley, KING 5 News

SEATTLE – The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) decided Friday to capture an ailing orphan orcathat’s been languishing in the Puget Sound for several months and return her to the Canadian waters ofher native pod.

Officials of the service said that while it would be a high-risk operation, it would be best to remove her from the busy waters off Vashon Island as soon as possible. After a few weeks of rehabilitation, the whale would be relocated to Canada’s Johnstone Strait, the summer home of her pod.

 ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 49

 Springer’s pod, the “A” pod, lives at the north end of Vancouver Island in Canada.

Bob Lohn of the NMFS told a news conference that a capture team was being put together.

“We want to emphasize, this is a first. It has never been done before, we don’t know what the prospects are, but we think it’s worth the risk to do it,” said Bob Lohn, NMSF.

In two to three weeks, they will have a team together to capture the whale, and hold her in a netpen for two weeks in order to treat a variety of medical ailments, ranging from a bad case of intestinal worms to a skin condition known as whale pox.

After that, the Canadian coast guard will move her in one day aboard a fast hovercraft to her home waters at the north tip of Vancouver Island.

In the end, when her pod returns, assuming all goes well, she would be released to rejoin them.

A panel of U.S. and Canadian researchers from the public and private sector, activist observers and staff from the Vancouver, British Columbia, Aquarium recommended earlier this month that the young killer whale be captured and treated.

But the fisheries service held off, citing concerns that moving her might cause stress that could harm her health.

The Fisheries service says there are big risks involving capture, stress and whether she will be accepted back by her pod. But the risks of living in a ferry lane, as pleasure boating season gets into full swing, may be worse.

“For example, just yesterday there was an incident of people from the ferry throwing her food. This is the last thing we want to have happen. We don’t want the whale to look at boats and ferries as a source for food,” said Lohn.

A73 – her name, based on her pod and birth order – was first spotted near the Vashon Island ferry dock about 3 miles west of Seattle in mid-January. According to Canadian researchers, her mother, A45, is dead. The 1-1/2- to 2-year-old calf apparently was left behind by her pod, where her only known relative was a grandmother.

The whale has two apparent health problems. One is a skin ailment that has led to discoloration and sloughed skin over much of her body, now nearing sensitive areas around her blowhole and eyes.

She also has ketosis, a condition that makes breath smell like paint thinner. In humans ketosis can be a symptom of mean starvation, diabetes or a complicated metabolic problem – all problems ruled out in the orca’s case by observation and blood-test results.

Also known as “Springer,” A73 spends her days catching steelhead, loafing near the surface, and sometimes spending hours rubbing against sticks or logs, possibly because she craves physical contact that would be occurring if she were with her family group.

Some activists insist the whale should be left alone, arguing that intervention could result in a lifetime in captivity.

It’s unclear whether A73, even if nursed back to health, would be accepted by her pod – which usually spends June through September near Vancouver Island. Scientists say they are unaware of any orcas that have been welcomed back into a pod after a sustained absence.

Bob Lohn of the National Marine Fisheries Service explains the decision.

While solo juvenile orcas are rare, scientists are aware of two in the region this year – A73 and L-98, a male from L-pod based near Washington’s San Juan Islands who has been living on the west side of Canada’s Vancouver Island since last fall.

Activists are seeking endangered-species protection for the 78 killer whales in three San Juan Island pods, which are struggling with pollution and dwindling populations of salmon, their primary food.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 50

Lots of details to work out – particularly funding. There is emergency money available in the federal budget to move marine mammals. Private organizations, such as Orca Conservancy, say they do not expect it would be difficult to raise the money to do this privately.

The costs are not nailed down, but the fisheries service says it could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Killer whales are not whales but the largest kind of dolphin, found in all the world’s oceans.

Saturday, May 25, 2002

Risky Rescue of Ailing Orca ‘Worth Doing’

The orphaned orca, which has a skin condition, was first seen off Vashon Island in January

By Eric Sorensen, Seattle Times Science Reporter

After months of deliberation and anxiety, federal officials yesterday said they plan to capture an orphaned orca in Puget Sound and attempt to reunite it with its native pod of Canadian killer whales.

The risky rescue itself could take place in two to three weeks. The female orca’s odyssey could take months, cover 300 miles and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, all with no certain outcome.

“We want to emphasize that this is a first — it has never been done before,” said Bob Lohn, regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which will lead the effort. “We don’t know what the prospects are but we think that it’s worth doing. I also want to emphasize that it’s a very high-risk situation.”

Word of the decision by the fisheries service was welcomed by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who last week pushed for a decision, as well as orca groups and at least one member of an advisory panel that urged the service weeks ago to act quickly to rescue the ailing animal.

“I wish it had been sooner but I’m not going to complain about the fact that they finally have something planned,” said Jim McBain, an advisory panel member and vice president of veterinary services for Busch Entertainment, which operates three SeaWorld facilities.

“My general feeling is it might be too late,” said John Nightingale, president of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. The aquarium was scheduled to do the rescue operation but earlier this week told the fisheries service that it soon would have too many other commitments to handle capture, handling and treatment south of the Canadian border.

Since the 2-year-old female was first seen off Vashon Island in January, the fisheries service has alternated between wanting to rescue her immediately to looking for clear signs that she needed rescuing. Lohn yesterday said the fisheries service now decided to rescue her because she is indeed sick — but not too sick.

Recent blood tests show she does not have a genetic defect that would have jeopardized her survival in the wild. She also does not appear to have any viruses that would threaten the general orca population.

More tests would still be needed, he said, “but so far we have reason for hope.”

Risk of getting used to people

Meanwhile, the orca, known scientifically as A73 and either Springer or Boo by fans, risks getting increasingly accustomed to boats and people as the weather warms, Lohn said. Earlier this week, passengers on the Fauntleroy-Vashon ferry were seen throwing French fries to the orca.

“We don’t want this whale to substitute boats for fellow orcas,” said Lohn, who worried about collisions between the two.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 51

The fisheries service rescue plan would run in three phases:

• The Rescue: The orca would be lured into a net pen. If she can’t be lured, she will be caught with a sling or other device.

• The Rehabilitation: A73 would spend at least two weeks in the pen somewhere in Puget Sound while being evaluated and treated. Veterinarians are already well aware that she has a skin condition, worms and an acetonelike breath that typically suggests a metabolism problem but has so far defied analysis. Some observers say they’ve seen her skin condition creeping into her blowhole lately, risking a hard-totreat system infection if it reaches her lungs.

If the fisheries service and Canadian authorities feel A73 can be released without harming her native A pod, she then will be transported to Johnstone Strait, roughly halfway up the northeast side of Vancouver Island.

NMFS wants to do this quickly and may place the orca in a tank aboard a high-speed hovercraft owned by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, NMFS’ north-of-the-border equivalent.

Lohn said he had no set answer on what would happen if A73 could not be returned to her pod.

• The Reintroduction: A73 would be kept in an enclosed bay or lagoon until late July. Then the A pod should return in a midsummer festival of squeaks, squeals, fluke-slapping, spy-hopping and leaping.

“If there ever is a point in which we think that A73 would say, ‘Hey, those are my kind and I want to be with them,’ we think that’s the best point,” Lohn said.

Orcas in the past may have been briefly captured and reunited with their pods, but A73 could be the first to be brought so far after so long for a reintroduction.

Pete Schroeder, a former veterinarian for SeaWorld San Diego, successfully helped reintroduce a gray whale in the early ’70s after its manure became too much for its aquarium tank-filtration system. The effort involved a seven-ship Navy flotilla.

“It would probably be easier to do with a toothed whale like an orca,” said Schroeder, now a consultant living in Sequim. “They seem to be more adaptable creatures.”

Marilyn Joyce, marine-mammal coordinator for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, declined to give odds on the orca’s reintroduction.

“Until we get a medical assessment, a thorough assessment, I don’t think we can predict.”

Lack of money

The National Marine Fisheries Service has almost no money for the operation, but Lohn said a good chunk could come from emergency federal grants. The fisheries service also was in a conference call with nonprofit groups yesterday morning and they now plan to formally launch a fund-raising campaign next week at a University of Washington-based Orca Recovery Conference (co-sponsored and coordinated by Orca Conservancy).

“We’re going to finally roll out the bake sale,” said Fred Felleman of the Orca Conservancy.

Saturday, May 25, 2002

Plan to Relocate Orca Called ‘High-Risk’ –

Stress, Illness Could Foil Visions of Happy Reunion With her Pod

By ROBERT McCLURE, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

The killer whale family cruises silently past the northern tip of Vancouver Island. When they reach Johnstone Strait, the orcas splash around and break out in chirps, squeals and squeaks, happy to return to their summer home.

Just then, their long-lost cousin is released, setting the stage for a joyful pod reunion.

That’s the vision federal fisheries officials outlined yesterday for the orphaned orca of Puget Sound after weeks of entreaties from scientists and orca advocates.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 52

In a few weeks, the young orca will be captured, held for medical treatment at a floating pen in Puget Sound, then whisked up to Canada to await the reunion, the National Marines Fisheries Service announced.

“This is a first; this has never been done,” said Bob Lohn, the agency’s regional administrator. “We don’t know what the prospects are, but we would like to give it a try.”

The orca, officially known as A73 and nicknamed Springer, could die of stress while being captured. She might prove too sick to be allowed back into her home waters in Canada. There’s also a fair likelihood that her old pod won’t welcome her back.

“We recognize the possibility that this could ultimately cause the orca to go into a stress situation and no longer live,” Lohn said. “This is a high-risk enterprise.”

Likewise, the agency’s regional marine mammal coordinator, Brent Norberg, said he has mixed feelings about the decision. A team of orca-capture experts will be assembled and may try to lure the whale into a pen, but might also resort to some form of net, he said.

Lohn said the agency decided to capture and rehabilitate the orca because blood tests ruled out a genetic disorder, a scientific panel unanimously recommended the course of action, and the summer boating season is imminent.

Authorities fear A73, which has been known to approach boats, will grow too accustomed to humans to be reintroduced into the wild.

While boaters have heeded NMFS’ pleas to stay away from the orca, “we’re not able to ask the orca to stay away from boats,” Lohn said. “In the end, she might bond to that situation and no longer seek the company of other orcas.”

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., called the decision “great news.”

“NMFS’ decision to intervene and develop a plan for A73 now, ultimately increases its chances for long- term survival,” Cantwell said. “I hope everyone will work together to give this orca the opportunity to thrive.”

Conservationists pledged to help raise money needed to rehabilitate and return the creature to the wild. “We hope we can take this outpouring of concern for this animal and redirect it to the whole orca population,” said Fred Felleman of the Orca Conservancy, one of the groups helping raise funds. “We need to make sure that people understand that the reason for taking these heroics is because of the dire straits of the overall population.”

The orca is one of about 300 known to return each year to Puget Sound or to Johnstone Strait in Canada.

Because they return each summer and live here for some time, they are known as “resident” whales. But they and other killer whales in this part of the world are struggling to survive. A big factor is thought to be the increasingly high concentrations of industrial chemicals being measured in them. Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are present in levels known to inhibit reproduction and interfere with the immune response of other marine mammals.

A73 was first spotted near the Vashon Island ferry dock in mid-January. Canadian researchers say her mother, A-45, is dead. The 1 1/2- to 2-year-old apparently was left behind by her pod, where her only known relative was a grandmother.

The whale has several apparent health problems, including worms and “whale pox” – a skin ailment that has caused much of her skin to discolor and slough off. She also has ketosis, a condition that makes breath smell like paint thinner because proteins are not being metabolized properly. In humans, ketosis can be a symptom of starvation, diabetes or metabolic problems, but those problems have been ruled out in the orca’s case. The whale will need at least two weeks of care before the transplant can be attempted, according to Lohn. The cost of the operation would be “well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Lohn said, but that $200,000 should be available from federal grants.

“We’re pleased they have decided to move forward and we’re pleased to enter into a partnership to help raise funds,” Felleman said. “But we don’t feel we have to wait until we have money in the bank to get started.”

Orca captures were halted here in the 1970s. NMFS likely will go outside the country to find the expertise needed to successfully capture the orca, Lohn said.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 53

And before the whale can be taken back into Canada, authorities there will have to give the OK. They have said in the past that their first priority is making sure A73 doesn’t introduce any disease into the already-strapped orca population there.

“We support the plan,” said Marilyn Joyce, marine-mammal coordinator for Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “Once the whale comes into Canadian waters, the goal is to oversee its transfer and reintroduction.”

“We hope it’s not too late,” said John Nightingale, president of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, which also has been involved in the relocation strategy. “We think it’s long overdue.”

With the whale’s health continuing to decline, everyone is hoping to speed up the process, he said. “There’s going to be a lot of fast planning over the weekend.”

When A73’s family returns to Johnstone Strait in late July, they typically cruise in silently, then break out into a celebration like the one NMFS envisions, Lohn said.

If that doesn’t work, they could try again in late September or early October, when the pod leaves Johnstone Strait, he said.

“If there is a point that A73 would say, ‘Those are my kind and I want to be with them,’ that’s it,” Lohn said. “We want to make sure she is in good physical shape when that happens.”

Felleman said many details need to be worked out. What will happen, for example, if the whale is judged too sick to return to Canada, or she is rejected by her pod?

“Have a committed exit strategy, and know when to give up,” Felleman said.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 54

June 2002

Showtime…

Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 4.04.32 PM
Senator Maria Cantwell at Orca Conservancy’s
Orca Recovery Conference at The University of Washington.
June 3, 2002

Groups Trying To Help Feds Pay For Orca Relocation

KOMO 4 News Staff

SEATTLE – Advocacy groups are working on plans to help the government pay for the rescue and relocation of an orphaned orca that’s been hanging out near the Vashon Island ferry dock for the last several months. They’re not yet sure how much money they’ll need to raise, but at the final day of the Orca Recovery Conference in Seattle, they said they want to do whatever they can to help the National Marine Fisheries Service cover the cost of trying to reunite A73 with her pod off British Columbia’s Vancouver Island.

“It’s not a matter of if, because we can raise a bunch of money,” said Orca Conservancy President Michael Harris. “It’s a matter of who’s on board.”

The National Marine Fisheries Service decided late last month that the ailing whale’s health warranted ahigh-risk mission to capture her, transport her to Johnstone Strait off Vancouver Island and try to reunite her with her pod, which spends its summers there. It’s unclear how much that will cost, but Bob Lohn, the fisheries service’s regional director, said it’s likely to reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. No schedule has been set, he said, but officials hope to capture the whale by mid-June, spend another two weeks treating her and running more medical tests, then transport her to the strait as quickly as possible.

The whale – named A73 because of her pod and birth order – then would be kept in a netted-off section of a bay for about two weeks or until her native pod arrives on its annual migration south, approximately mid- to late July. Lohn said the fisheries service likely will be eligible for two $100,000 federal grants – one for the capture and treatment of the whale, the other for the transport and release.

Fisheries service spokesman Brian Gorman said a funding plan and more detailed outline of how the operation is expected to take place could be in place as early as mid-week. While welcoming the involvement of the numerous nonprofit groups that have offered to help out financially and logistically, Gorman said, “It’s hard to pull together so many disparate groups, some of whom have money, some of whom don’t, some of whom want to go in one direction, some of whom want to go in another direction.”

Ultimately, the cost and layout of the rescue, relocation and release will depend on the whale’s health. A73 – also known as “Boo” and “Springer” – was first spotted near the Vashon Island ferry dock in mid-January. Canadian researchers say her mother, A-45, is dead. The 1 1/2- to 2-year-old calf apparently was left behind by her pod, where her only known relative was a grandmother. The whale has several apparent health problems, including anemia, worms and “whale pox” – a skin ailment that has caused much of her skin to discolor and slough off. The whale pox is creeping close to sensitive areas around her blowhole and eyes. She also has ketosis, a condition that makes breath smell like paint thinner because proteins are not being metabolized properly. In humans, ketosis can be a symptom of starvation, diabetes or metabolic problems, but those problems have been ruled out in the orca’s case by observation and blood tests. It’s unclear whether A73’s pod will take her back. Scientists say they are unaware of any orcas that have been welcomed back into a pod after a sustained absence.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” said Paul Spong, director of OrcaLab, a research institute on Hanson Island off the northern end of Vancouver Island. “We’re actually quite hopeful about this.”

Solo juvenile orcas are rare, since killer whales are highly intelligent and social animals. But this year there are two in the region – A73 and L-98, a male from L-pod based near Washington’s San Juan Islands, who has been living on the west side of Canada’s Vancouver Island since last fall. Killer whales, actually a kind of dolphin, are

found in all the world’s oceans. Activists are seeking endangered-species protection for orcas in three San Juan Island pods, which are struggling with pollution and dwindling populations of salmon, their primary food.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 55

6/7/2002

Orca Orphan’s Capture Planned for Next Week

The Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Five months after a young female killer whale was spotted near the Vashon Island ferry dock, the federal government says it will try to capture her next week for eventual relocation to her native waters in Canada. The young orca will be captured and immobilized – in a net or by securing her tail – and then placed on a barge for a quick trip to a net pen at Manchester on the Kitsap Peninsula, said spokesman Brian Gorman with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The government is hiring a private contractor to head the capture team, probably a local man with experience in the multimillion-dollar effort to reunite Keiko with his birth pod off Greenland, Gorman said.

The young female is to stay in the pen 10 to 14 days for treatment of a skin ailment, worms and other apparently minor health problems, Gorman said. She’ll also undergo a series of tests and effectively be in quarantine to ensure she doesn’t take any serious health problems back to her pod.

6/7/2002

NMFS Plans to Try to Capture Orphan Orca Next Week

The Associated Press

SEATTLE – The federal government says it has set next week as the time when it plans to try to capture a young female killer whale that has been swimming near Vashon Island in Puget Sound, west of Seattle.

The young orca was spotted in the area about five months ago. She apparently got separated from her pod – or family group – which is normally in Canadian waters off British Columbia. The plan is to capture the whale and then place her on a barge for a quick trip to a net pen in Kitsap County, west of Seattle.

A spokesman with the National Marine Fisheries Service – Brian Gorman – says the young female is to stay in the pen 10 to 14 days for treatment of some health problems and for tests to make sure she doesn’t carry any serious health problems back when scientists try to reunite her with her pod.

Gorman says plans for the move to Canada are still being developed, but the initial plan is to keep her in an inlet that has been netted off “so she can swim freely and maintain muscle tone and wait for her pod to appear.”

And You Thought All That Orca Whale Coverage Was Just a Fluke

Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 4.11.28 PM
Friday, June 7, 2002
By JOHN LEVESQUE
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER TELEVISION CRITIC

IT’S BEEN TWO years since we basked in the aura of Dr. T.V. Skreen,celebrated consultant to the broadcast industry and part-time base-running coach for the Seattle Mariners.

We caught up with him at a fund-raiser for the Rampant Fescue Project, which is working to restore prairie grass to my back yard and other sensitive ecosystems. Skreen was the guest speaker, and after his illuminating talk – “An Orca in Every Newscast” – he was gracious enough to sit down for a few minutes and talk TV with me.

Here is an excerpt of that conversation.

TV GUY: Love your necktie, Dr. Skreen. Is that a “Free Willy” motif?

DR. SKREEN: Thanks. Yes, it is. Thought it would be appropriate to the topic of my remarks today.

TV GUY: Indeed. But I was surprised to hear you say it’s more important for TV news organizations to cover homeless whales than, say, homeless people.

DR. SKREEN: What’s so surprising? Everyone knows homeless people don’t photograph well. A lot of them dress badly. But whales are extremely telegenic, even the ones with bad skin and bad breath. The camera loves them almost as much as it loves the first snowfall, the high-speed chase, the aerial shot of …

TV GUY: I see where you’re going.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 60

DR. SKREEN: Don’t interrupt me. Who do you think you are? Charlie Rose?

TV GUY: Sorry. It’s just that sometimes we see the same story about the same whale day after day.

DR. SKREEN: What’s your point?

TV GUY: Well, it seems the story really isn’t being advanced, that stations keep doing whale stories because other stations keep doing whale stories and they all seem to think it’s what the public wants.

DR. SKREEN: That is what the public wants.

TV GUY: How do you know?

Breaching news: It seems local TV news organizations have never met a blowhole they didn’t like.

DR. SKREEN: The local stations get their research from focus groups, even the ones we don’t do any consulting for.

TV GUY: And the people who take part in these focus groups say they want more whale coverage?

DR. SKREEN: It’s number three on the list, right after “more scary weather forecasts that don’t pan out” and “more lame tie-ins to network programming.”

TV GUY: Fascinating. Where do you find these people?

DR. SKREEN: Beats me. We just tell the station to find 10 people to fill up a room. It’s not up to me to round ’em up.

TV GUY: And exactly how are the questions phrased?

DR. SKREEN: We usually give them a choice, such as, “Would you rather see coverage of whales or coverage of Alan Greenspan?” The whales win every time.

TV GUY: But has it ever occurred to you that news organizations aren’t supposed to pander to their patrons’ desires?

DR. SKREEN: Why not? Pandas get better ratings than whales. And if you can work a panda and a whale into the same story, boffo!

TV GUY: What I meant to say is that stations should be holding themselves to higher journalistic standards.

DR. SKREEN: What does journalism have to do with it? I’m in the marketing business.

TV GUY: Beg your pardon?

DR. SKREEN: Marketing. We’re trying to sell a product here. And whales help move the product, especially among younger viewers. You wouldn’t believe how many kids have been watching the news since that orphaned orca showed up in Puget Sound.

TV GUY: What happens if she is returned to her pod in Canada?

DR. SKREEN: Well, I’m sure the local stations will still do the occasional whale story, but they’ll have to be careful about spending too much on travel.

TV GUY: So they might turn to stories of a more pressing nature?

DR. SKREEN: Possibly. Number four on the focus-group list is “more coverage of tearful crime victims.” And number five is “more coverage of stories that make us afraid to go out at night.”

TV GUY: Now that I think about it, that whale coverage doesn’t seem so repetitious after all.IT’S BEEN TWO years since we basked in the aura of Dr. T.V. Skreen, celebrated consultant to the broadcast industry and part-time base-running coach for the Seattle Mariners. We caught up with him at a fund-raiser for the Rampant Fescue Project, which is working to restore prairie grass to my back yard and other sensitive ecosystems. Skreen was the guest speaker, and after his illuminating talk – “An Orca in Every Newscast” – he was gracious enough to sit down for a few minutes and talk TV with me.

Here is an excerpt of that conversation.

TV GUY: Love your necktie, Dr. Skreen. Is that a “Free Willy” motif?

DR. SKREEN: Thanks. Yes, it is. Thought it would be appropriate to the topic of my remarks today.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 57

TV GUY: Indeed. But I was surprised to hear you say it’s more important for TV news organizations to cover homeless whales than, say, homeless people.

DR. SKREEN: What’s so surprising? Everyone knows homeless people don’t photograph well. A lot of them dress badly. But whales are extremely telegenic, even the ones with bad skin and all.

6/8/02

Deadline Set for Orphaned Orca

The Associated Press

SEATTLE, WA – The federal government says it has set next week as the time when it plans to try to capture a young female killer whale that has been swimming near Vashon Island in Puget Sound, west of Seattle.

The young orca was spotted in the area about five months ago. She apparently got separated from her pod — or family group – which is normally in Canadian waters off British Columbia.

Biologists had considered bringing the whale to the Oregon coast aquarium in Newport. Now, the plan is to capture the whale and then place her on a barge for a quick trip to a net pen in Kitsap County west of Seattle.

A spokesman with the National Marine Fisheries Service – Brian Gorman – says the young female is to stay in the pen 10 to 14 days for treatment of some health problems and for tests to make sure she doesn’t carry any serious health problems back when scientists try to reunite her with her pod in Canada.

6/11/2002

Baby Orca Going Home

by Elisa Hahn, KING 5 News

SEATTLE – Big changes are in store for the orphaned orca that has been living on her own in near Vashon Island since January.

The young orca, named Springer, has begun to brush up against pleasure boats on Puget Sound. It’s a dangerous turn of events that highlights the need for a killer whale rescue. The National Marine Fisheries Service plans to capture her later this week. She’ll be held in a pen for medical treatment then moved to Canada in hope of reuniting with her pod.

In the past, Springer has shown an affinity for Washington State ferries. Now, the orphaned orca is getting even closer to humans – and in harm’s way. Those trying to save the whale are in a race against the boating season.

Each day, as the weather gets warmer and more boats go out on the water, the dangers increase for the orphaned orca. So everyone is hoping the big rescue planned for this week doesn’t come too late.

A family enjoying a day out on the water got a close encounter they never expected. For more than a hour, Springer rubbed up against their boat, using it as a big back scratcher. The family kept the boat’s propeller turned off the whole time to avoid harming the whale.

“It’s fairly new and it’s really spooky,” said Bob McLaughlin, Project Seawolf. Experts say her behavior demonstrates she’s becoming too accustomed to boats and humans, and needs to be moved – now.

“The problem is a lot of people out there won’t give her a fair shake. If they get tired of this after half an hour of the whale scratching up against them and they want to get to dinner, they may say, ‘The heck with it, I’ll try to outrun it,’ and all of a sudden they’re up and over a whale,” said McLaughlin.

So this week, the National Marine Fisheries will try to rescue the orca. The whale will be plucked from the waters off the West Seattle ferry dock, placed on a barge, and moved to the NOAA fisheries laboratory in Manchester on the Olympic Peninsula.

Wednesday they’ll conduct a mock capture, hoping for the actual whale rescue on Thursday or Friday, but it may be pushed into the weekend. In the meantime experts worry about Springer’s new affinity for pleasure boats.

After an hour, the whale still wouldn’t leave this the family’s boat, so the Project Seawolf boat, powered by jets, towed the family’s boat away to keep them from turning on their propeller.

But Springer gave chase, putting on a playful show along the way.

Experts emphasize over and over to stay away from whale. They say, if she does approach the vessel, don’t feed her, and turn off the motor and try to be patient until she leaves.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 58

6/11/02

Capture Plan On For Orphaned Orca

Associated Press

Manchester, Washington-AP — After a “wet run” tomorrow, whale experts say they’ll be ready to capture an orphaned orca who’s been living alone in Puget Sound.

The National Marine Fisheries Service plans to capture the two-year-old called “Springer” on Thursday, and put her in a 40-foot pen at Manchester, Washington.

The orca, or “killer whale,” will be treated for worms and a skin condition. In a couple of weeks, she’ll be taken to Canadian waters off Vancouver Island, where her rescuers hope she’ll be reunited with her pod.

It won’t be easy to catch the one-ton whale. The capture team hopes to slip a loop around her tail, then ease her into a sling. Then a crane will hoist her onto a barge for the five-mile trip to Manchester.

The stress could kill the whale, but officials don’t believe she can continue to live alone in Puget Sound, where she was first spotted in January. In addition to her ailments, Springer has been getting too close to ferries and other boats.

June 11, 2002

Rescuers to Capture Sick Whale

MANCHESTER, Washington (Reuters) — Marine mammal experts will capture a sick, orphaned young killer whale near Seattle Thursday in an unprecedented and daring attempt to reunite the one-ton mammal with its family in Canada.

Emaciated, covered with skin lesions and sporting foul breath hinting at digestive problems, the black-and-white female orca has captivated local residents by sidling up to ferries and other boats in the busy shipping lanes of Puget Sound.

Ironically, the whale’s preference for people drove scientists’ decision to snare her, treat her ailments in an aquatic cage and then transfer her to British Columbia’s Johnstone Strait before she gets hit by a boat or starves to death.

“Restoration of a juvenile orca back to its community has never been tried in this form before and we don’t know if it will work,” said Bob Lohn, Regional Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

“We are sufficiently convinced that where she is now is not a safe place for her in the long term and that there is no likelihood that she can remain a successful wild whale if she remains where she is,” Lohn told reporters at a NMFS station.

If all goes well the orca, known as A73, would spend at least two weeks in a floating pen munching live salmon while doctors assess her ability to make the risky boat ride to rich summer feeding grounds some 250 miles to the north.

From there the orca would be largely on her own and at the mercy of the dozens of whales in her native pod that may have rejected her when she first got sick or refused to wait for her when she lingered behind as her mother died of unknown causes.

“We know that she speaks the same dialect as that pod,” said Jeff Foster, a NMFS mammal rescue expert who helped return Keiko, an adult orca who starred in the “Free Willy” movies, to his home waters off Iceland.

Keiko has been reluctant to join other whales, but researchers had no idea what pod, or family, he belonged to. A73’s pod, headed by her grandmother, is well-known.

“I’m very optimistic on how things are going to go,” Foster said.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 59

Foster outlined several options for snaring the powerful animal using tethers, nets and stretchers and an array of transport options, including a speedy hovercraft from Canada’s coast guard, a barge or other large ships.

The rescue operation could cost several hundred thousand dollars, some of which will come from the federal government while private fund-raisers aim to raise the rest.

Various people have offered free food and equipment to help rescue the orca, which first appeared off the Seattle coast last winter. Many of the rescue workers are volunteers.

The dwindling local orca population suffers from shrinking salmon runs in waters polluted by toxic chemicals and many residents have rallied to defend the embattled regional icon.

“There is no guarantee that she will be healthy enough to make the trip,” said David Huff, a veterinarian from the Vancouver Aquarium assisting in the rescue. “I just can’t wait to find out, because I think she’s got a chance.

Wed, Jun. 12, 2002

Unprecedented Orca Rescue Bid Draws Near

BY CHRIS STETKIEWICZ, Reuters

MANCHESTER, Wash. – (Reuters) – Marine mammal experts will capture a sick, orphaned young killer whale near Seattle on Thursday in an unprecedented and daring attempt to reunite the one-ton mammal with its family in Canada.

Emaciated, covered with skin lesions and sporting foul breath hinting at digestive problems, the blackand-white female orca has captivated local residents by sidling up to ferries and other boats in the busy shipping lanes of Puget Sound.

Ironically, the whale’s preference for people drove scientists’ decision to snare her, treat her ailments in an aquatic cage and then transfer her to British Columbia’s Johnstone Strait before she gets hit by a boat or starves to death.

“Restoration of a juvenile orca back to its community has never been tried in this form before and we don’t know if it will work,” said Bob Lohn, Regional Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

“We are sufficiently convinced that where she is now is not a safe place for her in the long term and that there is no likelihood that she can remain a successful wild whale if she remains where she is,” Lohn told reporters at a NMFS station.

If all goes well the orca, known as A73, would spend at least two weeks in a floating pen munching live salmon while doctors assess her ability to make the risky boat ride to rich summer feeding grounds some 250 miles to the north.

From there the orca would be largely on her own and at the mercy of the dozens of whales in her native pod that may have rejected her when she first got sick or refused to wait for her when she lingered behind as her mother died of unknown causes.

“We know that she speaks the same dialect as that pod,” said Jeff Foster, a NMFS mammal rescue expert who helped return Keiko, an adult orca who starred in the “Free Willy” movies, to his home waters off Iceland.

Keiko has been reluctant to join other whales, but researchers had no idea what pod, or family, he belonged to. A73’s pod, headed by her grandmother, is well-known.

“I’m very optimistic on how things are going to go,” Foster said.

Foster outlined several options for snaring the powerful animal using tethers, nets and stretchers and an array of transport options, including a speedy hovercraft from Canada’s coast guard, a barge or other large ships.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 60

The rescue operation could cost several hundred thousand dollars, some of which will come from the federal government while private fund-raisers aim to raise the rest.

Various people have offered free food and equipment to help rescue the orca, which first appeared off the Seattle coast last winter. Many of the rescue workers are volunteers.

The dwindling local orca population suffers from shrinking salmon runs in waters polluted by toxic chemicals and many residents have rallied to defend the embattled regional icon.

“There is no guarantee that she will be healthy enough to make the trip,” said David Huff, a veterinarian from the Vancouver Aquarium assisting in the rescue. “I just can’t wait to find out, because I think she’s got a chance.

6/12/2002

Researchers Still Hope to Capture Orphaned Orca

AP and KING 5 News

If weather and a young killer whale cooperate, the government hopes to capture Puget Sound’s orphaned orca orphan Thursday or Friday for treatment before efforts are made to reunite her with her family in Canada.

On Wednesday, whale researchers pushed a portable net pen to the north end of Vashon Island, Wash. where the orphaned Orca, called Springer by researchers, has been residing. Researchers conducted a practice run of Springer’s capture, coaxing her into the pen.

The “wet run” proved successful Wednesday afternoon when researchers, petting and scratching her on her side, successfully coaxed Springer into the pen. Because the nets were not in place yet, Springer swam in and then quickly swam out of the pen – a victorious moment for researchers, who will attempt to lure Spring again back into the pen Thursday. Except next time with the net.

It all comes not a moment too soon, said Bob Lohn, National Marine Fisheries Service regional administrator.

“She seems to be rapidly losing her fear of humans,” Lohn said. There have been numerous reports of her cozying up to ferries and smaller boats and rubbing against them, perhaps to ease the itching of her worsening skin ailment.

The young orca was orphaned last year and then became separated from her family group. Since mid- January, she has made a temporary home near the Vashon Island ferry dock just west of Seattle.

Killer whales are social animals who live and hunt cooperatively. But at 11 feet long and about 2,000 pounds – roughly the size of a small car – this young whale could capsize smaller vessels if she got too friendly.

The plan is to keep her near this Kitsap Peninsula town in a 40-square-foot net pen at NMFS’s research station, where she can be easily tested and medicated. She may be moved to a larger pen here if her stay extends beyond a couple weeks.

On Tuesday, members of the capture team affixed aluminum rails to a killer-whale sling on loan from the Point Defiance Zoo – a fleece-lined, 6- by 12-foot cloth apparatus with two holes for the orca’s pectoral fins. The sling

will be used to lift her out of the water and place her on the 65-foot crane barge Elsie M., owned by the Cypress Island fish farm of Bainbridge Island.

The barge was here Tuesday unloading live Atlantic salmon that will be fed to A73 — named for her birth order in Canada’s A-pod. A mechanical device will be used so she doesn’t associate humans with food.

When she has recovered from several apparently minor health problems, she’ll be moved to a netted-off cove in British Columbia waters near Johnstone Strait, east of Vancouver Island, where A-pod spends summers.

The strait is the narrowest point between the island and the British Columbia mainland.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 61

When killer whales enter the strait, Lohn said, there’s a sense of “joyous reunion” as they squeak and call out, often leaping almost completely out of the water.

The goal is to release A73 there as they arrive, giving her “a chance to bond with them at the time they seem to be celebrating among themselves.”

Restoring a juvenile orca to her community has never been tried before, he noted.

Still, “we believe we have some of the best, most competent people in the world” lined up to help, Lohn said.

The capture team is headed by Jeff Foster of Auburn, a veteran of the so-far-unsuccessful effort to return long-captive adult killer whale Keiko, star of the movie “Free Willy,” to the wild near Iceland. Foster also has done catch-and-release tagging of orcas for the Norwegian government.

Foster said he’s optimistic about A73’s prospects.

“Balancing the risks, we feel this is the best chance we can offer her,” Lohn said.

The effort to restore A73 to her family is expected to cost at least $200,000, he said. Federal money is being sought, and whale activists announced private fundraising plans Wednesday.

How A73 is caught will depend on her.

On Wednesday, the capture team decided against trying to loop a soft, nylon rope around her tail, opting instead to lure her into a floating netless pen by stroking her with sticks. It’s a sensation she seems to like, since she’s often seen rubbing against chunks of wood floating in the sound.

They planned to repeat the drill Thursday with the net. Then, she would be towed to a nearby crane barge, where a specially fitted sling would be used to lift her out of the water and onto the barge for the 4- to 5-mile trip to Manchester.

Blood and skin samples would be taken on the barge if she’s not too stressed, and treatment could begin almost immediately, Foster said.

NMFS veterinarian Janet Whaley said a complete round of tests should be completed within days.

Boaters were told to stay 400 yards away from the capture attempt, Lohn said, adding the best view is likely from the Washington state ferries Seattle-Vashon run.

Springer often followed the Evergreen State ferry. Wednesday afternoon, the ferry hosted a sendoff party for the whale. Members of the Tlingit Dance Troupe performed a killer whale song on the Evergreen in honor of Springer’s departure. Ferry workers say Springer often followed their boat and sometimes nuzzled up against it while it was docked.

While juvenile orcas surviving on their own are thought to be rare, this year there are two of them – A73 in Puget Sound, and L-98, a male from one of the three southern resident pods that spend time around the San Juan Islands. He has been seen on the west side of Vancouver Island since November.

According to recent reports from Canada, L-98 is also starting to get dangerously friendly with boats.

Killer whales are found in all the world’s oceans. The Washington state population – under pressure from pollution and boat traffic – has dropped from 98 in 1995 to 78 currently. The government is to decide this summer whether to list them as an endangered species.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 62

Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 4.31.30 PM

June 12, 2002

Orca Coalition Sees Hope For Ecosystem

By KOMO Staff & News Services

SEATTLE – The pending rescue and relocation of Puget Sound’s orphaned orca has become a source of hope for improving the plight of the area’s marine ecosystem, a coalition of whale advocates said Wednesday.

“A73 is kind of the poster child in making sure we always have orcas out there,” said Sally Hodson, executive director of the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, during a news conference at Cove Park in West Seattle, near where the whale hangs out.

The museum is just one of seven conservation groups joining to form the Orphan Orca Fund and help the government pay for rescue of the killer whale – designated A73 because of her pod and birth order – that has stayed near the Vashon Island ferry dock since mid-January.

Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 4.33.57 PMDonations will go to a central location at Islanders Bank in Friday Harbor, said Orca Conservancy President Michael Harris.

Cost of the rescue, including medical treatment and reunion with her pod off Vancouver Island, is estimated at about $500,000, Hodson said. The group isn’t sure how much money it will need to raise.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency leading the rescue effort, is likely eligible for two $100,000 federal grants – one for capture and treatment of the orca, the other for transport and release.

The remaining funding will have to come from money and materials donated from the community, Hodson said.

Already, the fund is receiving buckets, foam pads and medical supplies – all necessary for the whale’s transport.

The groups, which also include the American Cetacean Society’s Puget Sound Chapter, Earth Island Institute, and Friends for the San Juans, remain adamant that their goal is to have the whale returned to the wild. No money collected through the fund will be used to place her in captivity, Harris said.

“This is a Canadian whale, it doesn’t belong in an American tank,” Harris said.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 63

The young orca’s successful release would be significant in improving conditions of the southern resident population in Puget Sound, which has dwindled from 98 in 1995 to 78 today, said Kathy Fletcher, executive director of coalition member People For Puget Sound. Pollution and boat traffic have hurt the orca population.

“It’s amazing how the public has become so interested, really captivated by this whale,” Fletcher said. “This little whale, because she’s alive and in front of people, has brought the problem to people’s attention.”

The fisheries service decided late last month that the ailing whale’s health warranted this week’s high-risk mission to capture the orca – also known as “Boo” and “Springer” – and transport her to Johnstone Strait off Vancouver Island.

On Wednesday, a team worked to prepare her for capture Thursday or Friday.

Since determining that the 1 1/2- to 2-year-old calf was left behind by her pod, where her only known relative was a grandmother, scientists have found she has several obvious health problems, including anemia, worms and a skin ailment that has caused much of her skin to discolor and slough off.

If capture is successful, officials hope to spend another two weeks treating her and running more medical tests, then transport her to the strait as quickly as possible.

The plan is to keep her in a netted-off section of a bay near Manchester, Wash., for about two weeks or until her native pod arrives on its annual migration south, approximately mid- to late July.

For More Information:

Orca Conservancyhttp://www.orcaconservancy.org

The Whale Museumhttp://www.whalemuseum.com

National Marine Fisheries Servicehttp://www.nwr.noaa.gov

 

Next Part Three…

About orcaconservancy

Orca Conservancy is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working on behalf of orcinus orca, the killer whale, and protecting the wild places on which it depends. Successful Petitioner and Litigant in historic U.S. District Court case to list Southern Resident orcas as "Endangered" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act -- the first-ever federal protection for the population. Leader in the Springer Project, the first-ever successful translocation and reintroduction of a wild killer whale, a rescue that captured the attention of the world.
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