Springer File Part Four

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 93

“Everyone’s still upbeat. It’s going to happen,” Bob McLaughlin of Project Seawolf said.

Scientists planned the move carefully

Springer’s pod, called A-pod by scientists, arrived early in Vancouver waters – a good indication that Springer could be released into the wild within a couple of days.

Thursday was intended to be the whale’s last day in her holding pen in Manchester, Wash. Equipment was  checked, final routes were made, and tides were calculated. At the end of the day, all parties involved looked over the moving plans and gave it the green light.

“We’re pretty prepared and we have contingency plans if things do go awry,” said Jeff Foster of Marine Rescue, “but everything looks pretty, pretty good.”

Loading Springer on the boat will look much the same as it did when she was first brought to her holding pen several weeks ago. A large net under the tank will be lifted, essentially corralling her into this same stretcher.

Then she’ll be suspended in the water of a special tank, watched closely by a number of scientists and biologists.

The key, say biologists, will be her breathing. If it stays constant at 8 to10 breaths every 5 minutes, they’ll know she’s doing OK.

“We want her to be relaxed,” said Dr. Pete Schrader of the National Marine Fisheries Service. “We can tell. There will be people monitoring that and keeping her wet.”

The trip shouldn’t take more than 12 hours in a high-speed catamaran. Crews hope to have her back in the water by early evening.

Then, they’ll watch closely, letting Springer tell them when she’s ready to go.

“If we see that activity level change and if she gets excited and we see her challenge the net in any way, then we know she’s wanting to go,” said Foster. “So we’ll drop the nets down and let her go.” Springer’s health improved

The orca, dubbed A73 by researchers for her order in her birth pod, was first spotted near the Vashon Island ferry dock in mid-January. Researchers believe her pod left her behind after her mother died, and she found her way into Puget Sound.

Springer was captured by a National Marine Fisheries Service team June 13, and has been under close watch since in a 40-by-40-foot holding pen in Clam Bay near Manchester, on the Kitsap Peninsula across Puget Sound from Seattle.

The agency decided to capture her in part because of concerns about her health, and also because she had become extremely friendly with small boats off Vashon Island, raising concerns about both her safety and that of boaters.

While in captivity, Springer’s health improved. Her itchy skin condition cleared up and she gained some 50 to 100 pounds. The decision to move Springer came after blood tests gave the young whale a clean bill of health.

“The team has determined that A73 does not pose any known threat to the northern population,” said Marilyn Joyce, a spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

A veterinarian for the Vancouver Aquarium, which is orchestrating the move, said that the whale’s skin problem and an internal condition that made her breath smell like paint thinner were resolving themselves.

Reunion could be earlier than expected

Canadian experts will oversee the effort to reunite the orca with her home pod in Johnstone Strait, off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. Plans call for her to be held in a net pen to allow her and the pod to become accustomed to each other.

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The whale will be penned in waters where her closest relatives swim during the summer months. Once officials are convinced the whale is ready to be released, they will wait first for her immediate family, the A-24 group, to arrive in the area and release her in their presence, according to Lance Barrett-Lennard with the Vancouver Aquarium.

As if on cue, Canadian scientsts captured sounds of Springer’s pod Tuesday night, an indication that Springer’s orca family has returned to the waters off north Vancouver Island earlier then expected, opening the door for an early reunion.

Scientists weren’t sure just when Springer would be released. But on Tuesday night, biologists in north end of Vancouver Island heard the sounds from A-pod.

“Everybody was really excited,” said Anna Spong, Orcalab. “It was an incredible coincidence with the announcement going out yesterday that Springer was coming home, and her family turning up, it was a very exciting moment for everyone here.”

The orcas were spotted off Hanson Island, near Port McNeil. The A-4 pod is Springer’s closest relatives and may include her grandmother. Biologists familiar with the group believe the chances are good that Springer will be reunited within the week.

“We think that there’s a reasonable chance of reconnecting her with the remaining members of her family, or with other family groups in the northern resident communities if she’s given a chance,” said Dr. Paul Spong of Orcalab.

Resource Links
OrcaLab
Orca Conservancy
National Marine Fisheries
National Marine Mammal Laboratory
Vancouver Aquarium
The Whale Museum
Captive Orca Statistic

The Orphan Orca Fund

Contributions to The Orphan Orca Fund will go directly to the project to reunite A73 with her pod. It will be administered by The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, Wash. Donations can be sent to:

The Orphan Orca Fundc/o Juanita Johns at Islanders Bank
P.O. Box 909
Friday Harbor, WA 98250.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 95

Screen shot 2013-04-27 at 7.29.23 PMJuly 12, 2002

WAITING ON SPRINGER

Kevin Reese, KOMO 4 News (ABC Seattle)

Anchor Intro, Kathy Goertzen: SPRINGER’S DELAYED DEPARTURE WAS A TOUGH BREAK FOR CREWS HERE, BUT IT GAVE BIOLOGISTS IN HER NEW HOME A CHANCE TO MAKE SURE THEY’RE READY WHEN THE LITTLE ORCA DOES GET HOME. KOMO’S KEVIN REESE JOINS US LIVE FROM TELEGRAPH COVE, ON VANCOUVER ISLAND. I BET IT’S JUST GORGEOUS THERE TODAY, KEVIN…

Kevin Reese: IT CERTAINLY IS, AS YOU CAN SEE, AND FROM THIS PICTURESQUE SPOT HERE IN TELEGRAPH COVE ON VANCOUVER ISLAND, WHAT YOU SEE BEHIND ME ARE THE WATERS OF JOHNSTONE STRAIT AND THE VERY FIRST ISLAND YOU SEE THERE IS HANSON ISLAND, AND ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THAT IS DONGCHONG BAY, WHERE SPRINGER WILL BE HELD TEMPORARILY. AND SOME OF THE GOOD NEWS HERE IS THAT IT DOES GIVE THEM EXTRA TIME TO GET READY, AND AN EXTRA DAY TO CONFIRM WHAT THEY DID TODAY, THAT HER FAMILY IS ALREADY HERE.

FIRST LET’S SHOW YOU TELEGRAPH COVE, A SMALL FISHING AND WHALEWATCHING VILLAGE WHICH WILL BE FILLED WITH BOATS TOMORROW. AN EXTRA DAY IS A GOOD DAY FOR TINY TELEGRAPH COVE, WHICH IS WELL OFF THE BEATEN PATH. AND CHARTER CAPTAIN ROY GRAHAM KNOWS IT MEANS AN EXTRA DAY OF TOURIST AND MEDIA MONEY.

Roy Graham, Charter Captain: WELL, I LOOK AT THE ECONOMIC BENEFIT IT’S BRINGING TO OUR COMMUNITY.

Kevin Reese: WHALEWATCHERS SEE THEIR BENEFIT, TOO. NANCY WOODMAN DROVE HERE ALL THE WAY FROM POULSBO.

Nancy Woodman, Whalewatcher: IT’S A BEAUTIFUL PART OF THE WORLD TO BE WAITING.

Kevin Reese: BEAUTIFUL, YES, BUT THE ONLY NEGATIVE PART – ANOTHER 24 HOURS OF PAINFUL ANTICIPATION OF SPRINGER’S RETURN. ON THE POSITIVE SIDE, THEY’VE NOW HAD AN EXTRA DAY TO MAKE SURE EVERYTHING’S IN PLACE AND THE NETPEN IS READY HERE AT DONGCHONG BAY, WHERE THE CANADIAN DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES AND OCEANS IS GUARDING THE PEN. DIVERS CHECKED IT OUT AGAIN TODAY. AND THE FIRST LOAD OF FISH WAS DROPPED IN, SALMON CAUGHT BY THE LOCAL NAMGIS FIRST NATION.

Screen shot 2013-04-27 at 7.29.32 PMSound-Up, OrcaLab’s Anna Spong Monitoring A11 Calls.

Kevin Reese: WHEN SHE DOES COME HOME, SHE’LL HAVE COMPANY. RESEARCHERS AT CRACROFT POINT, A FAMOUS ORCA LOOKOUT STATION ON JOHNSTONE STRAIT, FOUND ONE OF THE A-PODS FRIDAY, THE A11s – BASICALLY SPRINGER’S COUSINS, ONE OF TWO PODS IN JOHNSTONE STRAIT THAT SPRINGER COULD EVENTUALLY BE RELEASED TO. AND THEY’VE CONFIRMED ACOUSTICALLY THAT THERE IS A VOCAL CONNECTION AND THIS IS ONE OF THE SUBGROUPS SPRINGER MIGHT BE ABLE TO JOIN.

Screen shot 2013-04-27 at 7.29.41 PMMichael Harris, Orca Conservancy, at OrcaLab’s Cracroft Point Research Station: THE FACT THAT THEY JUST SHOWED UP ON THE DAY THAT WE ANNOUNCED THAT WE’RE GOING TO BRING HER UP HERE IS VERY KARMIC, VERY KINDA MAGICAL FOR A LOT OF US. IT’S A KEY ELEMENT. SO HAVING HER CLOSE RELATIVES HERE AT THE TIME THAT SHE’S COMING UP HERE IS JUST GREAT TIMING.

Kevin Reese: TIMING THAT THEY HOPE GOES WITHOUT A HITCH ON SATURDAY.

Michael Harris: AND NOW, MONTHS LATER, AFTER FORMING ALL THESE GROUPS TO HELP FUND THIS, WORKING WITH NMFS AND DFO, WHICH HAS NOT ALWAYS BEEN EASY, PEOPLE ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BORDER… IT’S LIKE DELIVERING A BABY, AND WE’RE ABOUT READY TO PASS OUT CIGARS. SO WE’RE ALL VERY, VERY EXCITED. THIS IS GREAT.

Kevin Reese: AND ALSO WHAT IS GREAT FOR THEM AS YOU CAN SEE, THE WEATHER HAS BEEN PERFECT AND THEY EXPECT THAT TO CONTINUE TOMORROW. SO IT’LL BE ANOTHER DAY OF WHAT THEY CALL AN ORCA PARADISE HERE ON THIS SIDE OF VANCOUVER ISLAND. AND EVERYBODY IS USING THIS TIME TO GET READY, TO MAKE SURE EVERYTHING’S IN PLACE.

AND AS I SAID, THE PEOPLE HERE AT TELEGRAPH COVE THAT YOU SAW IN THOSE PICTURES, AN EXTRA DAY TO ENJOY THIS SUDDEN ATTENTION FROM THE MEDIA AND FROM EVERYBODY ELSE EXPECTED TO BE HERE TOMORROW TO WITNESS THIS HISTORIC EVENT, WITH SPRINGER FINALLY RETURNING HOME.

LIVE AT TELEGRAPH COVE ON VANCOUVER ISLAND, KEVIN REESE, KOMO 4 NEWS.

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 96

Saturday, July 13, 2002

Orca Move Bagged till Today

Problems with boat burn too much fuel and daylight to relocate whale before dark

By ROBERT MCCLURE
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

LANGLEY – Yesterday was not the day for Springer to be sprung.

The orphan orca’s trip from Puget Sound to its Canadian home waters sidled off course when a funky piece of flotsam fouled a water jet propelling the catamaran that was supposed to transport the young killer whale. Said to be perfect for the delicate job, the 144—foot Catalina Jet was tripped up by a 2 1/2-foot length of cord tangled up with a mangled buoy and some shredded orange plastic.

A subcontractor’s inadequate cleaning of barnacles also appears to have slowed the boat unacceptably, said Mark Nichols, president of Nichols Bros. Boat Builders, the Whidbey Island firm that donated the boat’s use at an estimated cost of $20,000.

The aborted trip started at dawn.

“We’re delighted you can come along. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” John Nightingale, president of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, told guests and crew members aboard the boat as it prepared to leave. “This has never been done before.”

Nightingale then asked several dozen of Nichols’ friends and employees – some of whom helped build the boat – to move downstairs to the lower deck, leaving the upper deck for aquarium and Canadian government officials and reporters. Only then could the rescue mission get under way.

Then, an hour into what was to have been a voyage of at least 10 hours, the Catalina Jet turned back for repairs at its launching dock here on southeast Whidbey. Springer, known to scientists as A73, remained at her pen near Manchester, across Puget Sound from Seattle.

The 2-year-old whale turned up near Vashon Island in January after her mother died and she became separated from her whale family, or pod. The pod, as it does every summer, has just returned to Johnstone Strait on the north side of Vancouver Island. The idea is to transport the whale the nearly 400 miles north, put her into a pen for as little as half a day, and then let her go and hope she rejoins her extended family.

“It’s a very minor problem that should be fixable,” Nichols said as the craft returned to its dock here. “But we don’t want to press it. We want the best for Springer.”

The pressure to keep going was strong, though. Nightingale said that an extensive support network was on standby. For example, he said, boats with cranes were stationed along the transit route in case the whale ran into trouble along the way and had to be lifted out of its heavy blue metal tank on the stern of the Catalina Jet.

While kids played the Tony Hawk II video game and their parents drank in the view of Puget Sound, the boat returned to its launch spot at Langley. After sending divers to unclog the water jets and clean off barnacles, and after ejecting a Seattle Post-Intelligencer photographer and reporter who were not granted status as part of the official eight-person reporting pool, the vessel’s commanders ordered a trial run of the spruced-up boat.

When that went smoothly, the boat returned to the dock for what was supposed to be a final pick-up of passengers for the trip to Manchester and then on to British Columbia. But time was growing short. Already it was midmorning. A long trip might get the boat to the orca’s new pen at Dong Chong Bay at dusk. Officials did not want to proceed if she would have to be unloaded in the dark.

“My personal feeling is that this is going to be a scrub,” Nichols said. Ultimately he was proved right. All the back and forth in the boat had sucked down its fuel supplies. An hour-long refueling stop in Everett made a trip yesterday impossible.

“It’s like a moon shot,” Nightingale remarked. “You have a certain window.”

Dejected, the contingent of friends and co-workers of Nichols left the boat at midday. They will not be coming along today, when Vancouver Aquarium and Canadian government officials said the boat would be ready and waiting at Manchester by dawn, gassed up and ready to go.

“Somebody threw us a curve ball,” Nichols said. “We swung and missed, but we’ll keep going.”

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ORPHAN ORCA
Published in The Bremerton Sun: 07/13/2002

Springer’s Ride Develops Problem, Delays Departure

Officials will try to move the 2-year-old killer whale again today

By Christopher Dunagan
Sun Staff

Springer’s much-anticipated homecoming in Canadian waters Friday was delayed by a day when the high-speed boat in which she was to ride developed engine problems.

The 2-year-old orca, officially known as A73, remained in her net pen near Manchester in South Kitsap and was none the worse for wear.

The 140-foot, high-speed catamaran left Whidbey Island on schedule before dawn Friday but could not get up to even half-speed, so it turned back. By the time the boat was ready to go again, the acceptable “window” for the operation had closed, since the goal was to reach Johnstone Strait in Canada by nightfall.

Meanwhile, a portion of Springer’s natal pod — headed by her great aunt — continues to move around Hanson Island, where Springer will wait for a reunion with her family. The group of orcas, known as the A11 matriline, came into the area twice Thursday and once Friday, said Michael Harris, president of the Washington-based Orca Conservancy.

Springer’s own matriline, led by her grandmother, A-24, is expected to arrive in the area any time.

Harris, who is awaiting Springer’s arrival in Canada, said the Namgis band of First Nations — the native people who occupy Hanson Island and Dong Chong Bay — is planning a special greeting ceremony, including dancing, when the whale arrives.

Screen shot 2013-04-27 at 8.38.56 PMRescue organizers including Orca Conservancy arranged for the Namgis to catch live salmon to feed the young orca, and the Canadian government issued a special fishing permit under provisions that allow harvest for scientific purposes.

Since her capture a month ago, Springer has been fed farmed salmon at the National Marine Fisheries Lab at Manchester.

“They don’t like aquaculture up here — and the Namgis really don’t like it,” Harris said.

The first catch consisted of 73 salmon, which should feed the whale two or three days, Harris said. Further catches are authorized, but everyone hopes Springer won’t need to be held long.

Friday’s problems with the Catalina Jet, a jet-powered catamaran, were attributed to a piece of plastic bouy that might have been ingested into the turbine or to incomplete cleaning of the hull.

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“Just by looking right here, I can see this is enough to slow the boat down,” said Bryan Nichols, indicating a patch of barnacles Friday morning. Nichols is vice president of Nichols Bros. Boatbuilding, which donated use of the craft to the operation.

Nichols said divers had cleaned the bottom of the vessel but not the sides in preparation for the trip, and barnacles can build up quickly.

The vessel was cleaned at the dock, but by the time it was ready, it was nearly five hours behind schedule. The boat is designed to do 40 knots, but the trip with Springer is planned for 32 knots and is scheduled to take between 10 and 12 hours.

Such a late start left no room for error, said Clint Wright of Vancouver Aquarium, which is organizing the final leg of the rescue. People were inconvenienced by the delay, Wright said, but Springer’s safety remains the foremost concern.

“It was really a human-based issue,” Wright said after the trip was postponed. “She’ll be ready to go tomorrow, as she was today.”

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Sunday, July 14, 2002

Orphaned Orca Released to Join Pod

By PEGGY ANDERSEN, ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

HANSON ISLAND, British Columbia – An orphan orca that wandered into Puget Sound and was rescued by scientists was released Sunday afternoon to join other killer whales near this remote Canadian island.

“Based on what we saw last night, we were quite sure that when we opened the gate, she’d go charging off, and she did go charging off,” said Vancouver Aquarium President John Nightingale.

Last night, the orca got excited about passing whales, said Lance Barrett-Lennard of the Vancouver Aquarium, which is overseeing her care in home waters. The 2-year-old baby orca had been brought to this temporary home for release after being captured in Seattle. On Sunday, a group of eight whales turned into the bay, hearing her calls, and approached her slowly.

“You got the impression they were being kind of coy. Killer whales are very cautious animals,” he said.

The scientists conferred by telephone and decided this was the right time. As they were preparing to hold onto her and lower the net pen, she grabbed a passing salmon and munched away during the release, Barrett-Lennard said.

Then, after pausing to play with some kelp, she swam out of the bay with the pod, heading west as the others headed east, he said, but they were still within hearing range of each other.

“We’re not sure what will happen next but there are lots of salmon in the area now and lots of killer whales,” Barrett-Lennard said. It’s a good time for the orca to be there, he said.

Scientists were thrilled.

“I’m pretty much euphoric. It was only her second day up here,” said Clint Wright, vice president of operations at the Vancouver Aquarium. He said it’s possible the orca could end up with some other group.

Scientists had placed suction-cup transmitters on the orca and followed in a boat, Barrett-Lennard said. Other boaters, who had clustered in the area Saturday, heeded scientists’ pleas Sunday and stayed away.

Earlier Sunday, when 20-30 killer whales swam by the mouth of the bay, the little female pushed against the seaside netting, called to them and “spyhopped,” sticking her head out of the water to try to peek over the net fence to see what was happening.

The 2-year-old female, named A73 for the birth order in her pod, arrived here late Saturday after a 400mile trip aboard a donated high-speed ferry. The whale, who had wandered by herself to the busy, boat-filled waters of Puget Sound, was captured a month ago after whale experts feared for her health and safety.

The whales that passed by in the pre-dawn darkness Sunday included members of her three-member natal pod and others from their language group, called A-clan, plus other whales, Barrett-Lennard said. Any doubts about the young orphan’s response – that she might want to stay in the pen, or that she might be intimidated or frightened – evaporated.

“Seeing her last night pushing at the net, spyhopping to see what was going on,” made clear her interest in leaving the 50-foot-square, 35-foot-deep pen in Dong Chong Bay, on this small island off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. “Her calls were so loud they practically blew our earphones off,” Barrett- Lennard said.

Since A73 was removed from a water-filled travel container aboard the 140-foot catamaran ferry on Saturday, the 12-foot-long orca had been “extremely frisky,” said aquarium veterinarian David Huff. The journey from a net pen near Seattle lasted just over 13 hours.

Forty salmon caught locally by First Nations fishermen who were granted a special out-of-season permit for just this purpose were in the pen when she arrived, with more in an adjacent pen for later.

A73, who was not fed for the 18 hours before her journey home, hunted and dined all night, Barrett- Lennard said. Her caretakers worked from a 50-foot boat, the use of which was donated for the trip, as was the waterjet-powered catamaran ferry Catalina Jet.

 

 

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 102

The donation of the Catalina Jet from Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Whidbey Island, Wash., made the relocation possible, said aquarium President John Nightingale. A lengthy truck ride would have been too hard on her and an airplane flight too expensive, he said.

Boatyard President Matt Nichols, who estimated the value of his contribution at about a $100,000, has already volunteered use of the ferry to bring another wayward orca home. That whale, L-98 is a young male from a pod that summers near Washington state’s San Juan Islands.

L-98 has been on the west side of Vancouver Island since November, and there are reports of friendly but potentially dangerous encounters with boaters there. Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans is investigating and charges and fines are anticipated against the boaters, spokeswoman Michelle McCombs said.

L-98’s mother is still alive, and researchers on both sides of the border hope he will rejoin L-pod as it travels north after summer-salmon hunting.

A73 – called “Springer” by Canadian researchers – was first spotted in mid-January near the Vashon Island ferry dock southwest of Seattle. Worried about her health and the danger posed by boats and people, experts decided to take the unprecedented step of attempting to capture her and bring her home.

She was caught June 13 – underweight, suffering from worms and an itchy skin condition. Her health problems were cleared up during four weeks in a pen at a research station across Puget Sound from Seattle.

Killer whales, actually a kind of dolphin, are found in all the world’s oceans. Resident pods in the inland waters of the United States and Canada are struggling with dwindling salmon runs, increasing human contact and pollution.

Screen shot 2013-04-27 at 8.58.50 PM

 

 

 

7/15/2002

Springer Charges off as the Gate is Opened

Orphaned Orca Released; Joins, Then Leaves Pod Baby “charges off” to join the group, then wanders to a boat

KING 5 News and Glenn Farley

Screen shot 2013-04-27 at 8.59.03 PMTELEGRAPH COVE, Hanson Island – Springer, the Northwest’s celebrated orphaned orca, was released Sunday afternoon to join a pod of killer whales that swam by the mouth of the forested bay where she was penned. The pod uses the same dialect as the baby orca, which was captured in Seattle and brought to a temporary home off this remote Canadian island for release.

In a new video released by OrcaLab Sunday night, Springer heads to, and seems to interact with her own pod, but after a while, the pod drifts away and she plays with kelp.

Lance Barrett-Lennard with Vancouver aquarium remarked, “I hope that she’ll bond with the pod, but I think there’s a real possibility that she’s a whale that spends a lot of time by herself, or goes from pod to pod.”

While she is seen with the pod and on her own, three radio transmitters are tracking her. For a couple from Enumclaw out fishing, Springer does something that raises concerns 90 minutes after her release. “We shut our boat down and she came right over and went under the boat and circled it twice,” Cindy Strom of Enumclaw said.

“We were amazed,” Bruce Strom said. “You see orcas around here at different times, but to see the transmitters pop up, we knew exactly who it was.”

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 103

Her affinity for boats is one of the reasons she was taken out of Puget Sound. Paul Spong with OrcaLab said he feels she will eventually lose interest in boats and move back to her fellow orcas. Earlier in the day, Springer’s release looked extremely promising.

“Based on what we saw last night, we were quite sure that when we opened the gate, she’d go charging off, and she did go charging off,” said Vancouver Aquarium President John Nightingale.

Hours after the little whale was brought to her temporary home, 20-30 killer whales swam by the mouth of the bay. The little female pushed against the seaside netting, called to them and “spyhopped,” sticking her head out of the water to try to peek over the net fence to see what was happening.

“She spent a lot of time doing very energetic breaches. She did every kind of breach you can imagine. She did breaches on her side, jumped on the water and landed on her back, did belly flops, a lot of spyhopping, looking around. It looked for all the world like she was absolutely thrilled to be home,” said Dave Huff, veterinarian for Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center.

The whales that passed by in the pre-dawn darkness Sunday included members of her three-member natal pod and others from their language group, called A-clan, plus other whales, Barrett-Lennard said. Any doubts about the young orphan’s response – that she might want to stay in the pen, or that she might be intimidated or frightened – evaporated.

“Seeing her last night pushing at the net, spyhopping to see what was going on,” made clear her interest in leaving the 50-foot-square, 35-foot-deep pen in Dong Chong Bay, on this small island off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. “Her calls were so loud they practically blew our earphones off,” Barrett-Lennard said.

A warm homecoming

After an 11-hour ride aboard a jet-powered catamaran, Springer arrived at her new Canadian home in Dong Chong Bay at Telegraph Cove, Hanson Island, just north of Vancouver Island, B.C. around 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Since the 144-ft catamaran drew in too much water, workers had to lift Springer out of her holding tank using the specially designed sling. They loaded her onto a smaller barge and floated her to her new net pen in Dong Chong Bay.

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Springer, also known as A73 by scientists, appeared calm and cooperative as scientists unloaded her.

Scientists released her into her net pen, where dinner was waiting. Some 75 live salmon were caught by the First Nations Tribes and released into Springer’s new net pen.

Orca move came off without a hitch

Moving Springer was no simple task, but it came off without a hitch. After a one-day postponement, Springer set out on her journey home at the crack of dawn early Saturday morning.

Like many humans, Springer began the day with a shower and a meal in her holding pen in Manchester, Wash. Biologists and researchers from Canada and the U.S. loaded her into a 18-foot by 5-foot holding tank aboard a high-speed catamaran, donated by Nichols Brothers Boats, and departed around 7 a.m. in an effort to reunite her with her family.

The 2-year-old whale appeared cooperative and calm during the procedure as workers guided her into a specially designed sling, a crane lifted her from her pen and into a waiting tank on the second deck of the catamaran. Orca experts were pleased that the procedure went smoothly and called it picture-perfect.

“She’s very calm … a bit of a laid back whale,” Vancouver Aquarium spokesman John Nightingale said. “She hasn’t been in captivity for 20 years, she’s not used to humans, and yet she takes hands on care and going into the sling very quietly and very smoothly.”

 

 

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She was immediately surrounded by workers who massaged her and draped her with wet, ice-soaked towels. For the 8- to 12-hour ride north, Springer was covered with ointment, wet towels, and an awning to keep her cool and moist. The key for the whale experts was to keep Springer’s temperature cool enough to help her acclimate to the cooler Canadian waters.

The crew only made one unexpected stop. About two-thirds of the way at the Campbell River just 80-100 miles south of Telegraph Cove, the catamaran stopped to refuel and load 100 bags of ice to keep Springer cool.

Resource Links

OrcaLab

Orca Conservancy

National Marine Fisheries

National Marine Mammal Laboratory

Vancouver Aquarium

The Whale Museum

Captive Orca Statistic

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Jeff Foster rides a sling to balance it as they lower an orphan orca into her temporary pen.

Whale experts said Springer appeared restless but was doing fine in her holding tank on the catamaran, making “friendly and happy” vocalizations. U.S. government officials seemed thrilled to hand over the whale and her paperwork to the Canadians.

Believe it or not, Springer has not one, but two sets of immigration papers.

Boat problems postpone initial move

A similar attempt to move A73 north from Puget Sound was scotched Friday morning after debris stuck in the catamaran’s propulsion system prevented it from reaching its top speed of 40 knots. The whale had not yet been loaded. The vessel, which had not been used for months, was also slowed by a coating of barnacles, which the boat’s owner said were supposed to have been removed. The more than $8 million craft was donated for the move by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders on Whidbey Island, Wash.

“We found a buoy inside one of the water jets so we really didn’t have a chance with the (barnacle) growth. We had a diver that was supposed to have cleaned all this and I think he fell short on his job a little bit,” boat owner Matt Nichols said.

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A crane hoists the 1,348-pound orca whale in a sling onto a waiting catamaran ferry as crew watch in Manchester.

 

 

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 105

The boat was cleaned of crustaceans and brought up to top speed by Friday afternoon and determined to be ready for Saturday’s trip.

“It’s just one of those things that happen. Our main concern is, as always, the safety of A73,” said Vancouver Aquarium spokesman John Nightingale of the delay.

Aboard the catamaran Catalina Jet, the 400-mile trip to Johnstone Straight was estimated to take anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. When the craft was unable to get to half that speed Friday morning, organizers from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Vancouver Aquarium determined that they would not be able to get the whale to her new pen in Telegraph Cove before running out of daylight.

Springer first spotted in Puget Sound

The young whale was captured in mid-June after she made a home in the waters off Vashon Island, Wash. and began getting too friendly with ferries and boaters in the area. The whale’s mother died some months earlier, according to scientists.

Researchers are able to identify individual whales and their relatives by their markings and vocalizations.

Researchers and biologists concluded that the whale’s chances for survival in the busy waters of near Vashon Island and away from her family were slim. She was suffering from a variety of minor health problems, including worms, a discoloring rash and a still mysterious condition that made her breath smell like paint thinner.

Biologist ultimately determined that the whale had no known genetic problems or other diseases that would pose a risk to the northern population of killer whales.

The population of orcas in Washington waters has dwindled from 120 during the 1960s to 78 today. Nobody knows exactly why the animals have declined, but shrinking salmon runs, heavy boat traffic and pollution have all been blamed.

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July 16, 2002

Orphaned Whale Back With Pod

From CP Correspondents in British Columbia

An orphan killer whale is tagging along with members of her birth pod, a day after she was returned to Canadian waters from a months-long stay near Seattle, USA.

The two-year-old, 3.6-m orca is not yet mingling with the eight other whales, but has stayed within calling distance, said John Ford, a whale expert with Canada’s Department of Fisheries.

The orca appeared to be doing fine, though she was easily distracted by boats, logs and kelp, he said.

“She’s a toddler,” Lance Barrett-Lennard, of Vancouver Aquarium, explained.

The young whale apparently strayed into Puget Sound, near Seattle, in January after her mother died. She was captured last month because of safety concerns in the busy sound, and transported by ferry 645km to a small bay near her home waters.

The eight orcas entered the bay yesterday morning and exchanged calls with the female in a temporary pen.

She poked her head out of the water, as did some in the group. After her release in the afternoon, the whale paused to play with some kelp then swam west.

“Her best chance is to find a female she can bond with closely,” said aquarium vice-president of operations Clint Wright, who oversaw co-ordination of her transport north.

The hope is that she will find a niche within her clan, but life as a solitary whale in Canadian waters would offer her a more secure future than she could have found in Puget Sound, he said.

Screen shot 2013-04-27 at 9.22.32 PM

Members of the U.S. care team hold A73, the orca nicknamed Springer, as they prepare to release her into Dongchong Bay at Hanson Island, British Columbia, Sunday.

 

 

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 107

7/16/2002

Young Orca Spends Hours With her Family

The Associated Press

ROBSON BIGHT, British Columbia – A day after being released in her native waters, an orphan killer whale who spent six months dodging ferries near Seattle went to the beach with her family.

The 2-year-old whale, dubbed A73 for her birth order in her family group, visited a favorite killer whale “rubbing beach” here Monday evening with a group of about a half dozen members of A-clan, said Lance Barrett-Lennard, a Vancouver Aquarium whale expert who is monitoring her.

“It’s a good start,” Barrett-Lennard said.

Killer whales swim close to shore here on the east side of Vancouver Island and massage their bellies on the smooth stones of the beach. It’s the only place in the world where whales are known to exhibit this behavior. Earlier Monday, the young whale had been seen swimming a quarter-mile to a half-mile behind a group of A-clan whales, and she was seen swimming alone in the early afternoon before showing up with the beach party group.

A73 did not appear to be bonding with any particular female, said Graeme Ellis of Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Whale experts say that would be an ideal alliance for the little whale, who missed months of education when she wandered south last year after her mother’s death.

She was captured near Seattle on June 13 when her health worsened and her increasingly chummy behavior around boats raised safety concerns. She was pronounced in perfect health after treatment by U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service scientists and a group of private caretakers. Last Saturday, she was transported about 350 miles by high-speed catamaran ferry to Hanson Island near here.

A group of A-clan whales answered her cries Sunday and entered the small bay where she’d been penned for less than 24 hours. She was released and swam out into the waters off Vancouver Island’s northeast coast, not joining the other whales but staying within vocal range.

Barrett-Lennard and Ellis tracked her Monday in a motorboat, using the last of three transmitters attached with suction cups before her release. Asked whether she had joined the whale group, Ellis replied, “No, she was just mixed in with them.”

But this was only her second day of freedom. There are weeks of summer ahead here as orcas gather to feed along what Barrett-Lennard calls the “salmon highway.”

Ellis and Barrett-Lennard eventually pulled their vessel back to chat with a reporter and others aboard a commercial whale-watching boat. They moved away because A73 had fallen behind her group and seemed drawn to their engine noise – a habit she picked up in her solitary travels.

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Veterinarian Pete Schroeder, left, watches the orca, Springer, spyhop after she’s released into her new temporary pen near her native waters at Dong Chong Bay near Telegraph Cove, Canada, Saturday.

While the hope is that she will join one of several groups of the A-clan whales who use her dialect, she could also live out her life as a solitary whale, or tag along behind one pod or another at a distance as a “satellite whale.” There are 105 whales in the clan, one of three orca “language groups” in these waters.

When all her transmitters have fallen off, Canada has a monitoring network of government staff, area residents and other volunteers along the hundreds of miles of coastline on both sides of Vancouver Island and all along the Inside Passage that separates the island from the mainland.

Killer whales, actually a kind of dolphin, are found in all the world’s oceans. The inland resident populations of British Columbia and Washington state feed mostly on salmon, while transient coastal populations eat marine mammals.

The resident groups are struggling now with dwindling salmon runs, increasing human encroachment and pollution.

 

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 108

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Orca ‘Doing Amazingly Well’ in Pod

A73 is chatty and hungry, but slightly wary of her relatives

By LISA STIFFLER
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

The orphan orca that endeared herself to humans in the Puget Sound area now appears to be winning over her relatives in Canada.

One day after being released in her native waters, 2-year-old Springer is already tagging along with a group of killer whales that includes an aunt and three cousins, scientists said.

Yesterday, they frolicked off the north end of Vancouver Island, chattering and popping their heads in and out of the water. In the evening, Springer followed the pod to a beach, where she rubbed on smooth rocks with other pod members.

The pod was in a “relaxed and goofy mood,” said Paul Spong, director of OrcaLab, a non-profit research group located on Hanson Island, B.C., where Springer was released.

“She’s doing amazingly well,” he said.

The orca, officially designated A73 by scientists, was spotted all alone in Puget Sound in January. Over the months, her health deteriorated and she became increasingly friendly with boats, putting her at risk for injury. She was captured in June near Vashon Island.

She was nursed back to health for almost a month at a National Marine Fisheries Service facility on the Kitsap Peninsula. That ended Saturday, when she was shipped 400 miles to Canada aboard a jet-powered catamaran.

Sunday, a group of related whales entered the bay where Springer was being held in a sea pen. She was released and charged out to greet them, gobbling two of the salmon from her cage on her way out.

She then became “shy,” slowly following the orcas out of the bay, circling the island in the other direction and eventually catching up to them, though she still lagged behind by a half-mile or more.

“It’s the group that Springer probably knew best as an infant,” Spong said. The orca’s mother vanished last year. Her grandmother is still alive.

Springer speaks the same language as her relations, and their conversations were picked up yesterday by Spong’s hydrophone system.

“They’ve been doing this incredible vocal activity,” he said. “It’s been beautiful to listen to.”

The capture, treatment and return of the orphaned orca was paid for with $200,000 from a federal fund for marine mammal rescue, more than $50,000 from NMFS and more than $60,000 in donations, most of it in-kind. Those estimates do not include Canadian funding.

Scientists were hopeful that the orca would reconnect with other killer whales after her months of chummy behavior with humans.

Whale watchers and pleasure boaters have been asked to give plenty of distance to the orca. Early yesterday, A73 approached a researcher in a boat, presenting her with kelp, but the scientist did not encourage the behavior and the orca eventually departed for the other killer whales.

Yellow transmitters attached to her with suction cups are designed to help the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans keep an eye on her during her first days.

Springer appeared able to keep up with the orcas and came closer and closer, eventually coming within a distance of about a quarter-mile, Spong said. She was even hunting for salmon, leaping out of the water and then diving to grab a fish.

Fred Felleman, of the Seattle-based Orca Conservancy, was concerned whether A73 would be in shape to swim with the other killer whales after a month in a pen. “If you’re in a hospital bed for a week, walking around is pretty darned hard,” he said.

The orcas should remain in the area until September, giving A73 a chance to get fit before the pod roams up the coast of British Columbia.

 

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 109

POD REUNION

Waters of Home Welcome Springer

By Christopher Dunagan, Bremerton Sun Staff  – 7/14/2002

The orca settles into a place near Hanson Island after her 12-hour trip.

Killer whale experts could barely contain their delight at Springer’s successful 12-hour trip Saturday from South Kitsap to her home waters at the northern end of Vancouver Island.

“She looks great,” said Michael Harris of Orca Conservancy after watching a high-speed catamaran deliver the 2-year-old orca to Hanson Island on Saturday evening. “Everybody is so relieved, and there are a lot of exhausted people here. But the operation was seamless.”

Like magic, dark gray clouds parted into sunshine just as Springer arrived, Harris said. The clouds had threatened rain for most of the day.

First Nation bands of native people greeted Springer in canoes and with songs and dances on the beach. One canoe carried a banner reading, “Welcome Baby Orca.”

“It was just a beautiful moment, all the way around,” Harris said.

As if to add to the magic of the tale, Springer’s closest living relatives arrived near Hanson Island just the night before Springer herself came in by boat. It was the first time those particular orcas, led by Springer’s grandmother, were spotted this year. The group, known as the A-24 matriline, typically returns from its winter travels in early to mid-July when the salmon are running, so the coincidence is not shocking.

A related group of orcas, led by Springer’s great aunt, has been moving in and around the area the past few days. A new calf was seen with that group.

On Saturday, the two groups merged and stayed together throughout the day, said Helena Symonds of OrcaLab, a major research outpost that specializes in whale vocalizations. As soon as Springer was lowered into her new net pen in Dong Chong Bay about 7 p.m. Saturday, she began squealing and squeaking with excitement.

“She was vocalizing pretty constantly and doing lots and lots of calls,” Symonds said.

OrcaLab technicians had installed special hydrophones in the bay, adding to other longtime instruments throughout the region.

Springer’s pod, the A-4 Pod, uses some 12 discrete calls not used by other killer whales. Springer was using nearly all of them Saturday night, Symonds said.

Springer’s relatives remained out of hearing range after her arrival, but researchers were eager to see what kind of interaction might take place today.

The timing of Springer’s release – a judgment call – depends on acoustic or physical contact with other members of her pod. Those whales can communicate vocally over several miles, as sound travels well under water. The whales might even approach Springer’s pen out of curiosity.

 

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 110

“If her pod comes by tomorrow and they vocalized and were positive, we could release her tomorrow,” said her chief veterinarian, Dave Huff of Vancouver Aquarium.

Springer became separated from her pod last year after her mother died. Traveling alone, she showed up near Vashon Island in Puget Sound in mid-January and remained in the ferry lane until her capture a month ago.

During her stay at Manchester, she was treated for intestinal worms and a skin disorder. She ate live salmon and increased her weight from 1,240 to 1,348 pounds.

Despite the orca’s confinement in a tiny tank during Saturday’s long boat ride, she was moving about naturally in her pen and chasing fish placed there for her.

Even during the trip, the young orca’s breathing remained slow and easy, according to Huff. The orca showed no signs of stress, although a few times she tried to shift around in the tight tank.

It was as if she had placed her trust in her human handlers, led by Jeff Foster, bolstering her reputation as a “laid-back whale.”

“She’s a very calm animal,” said whale handler Jen Schorr of Seattle. “They’re pretty bold in most cases. They’re the top predator, so they can afford to be.”

The 340-mile trip began about 6 a.m. Saturday, when Springer was lifted out her 40-footsquare net pen. Springer barely wiggled her pectoral fins, sticking out through holes in the canvas sling, while a massive crane hoisted her into the tank at the back of the Catalina Jet.

The sleek passenger boat moved swiftly through Puget Sound and north into Canada, defying heavy waves near the border. The boat made a brief stop at Campbell River, beyond the halfway mark, to pick up fuel for the vessel, more ice for the whale and pizza for the passengers and crew.

Springer’s dinner – 40 live pink and chinook salmon – was waiting for the whale at her pen. The fish had been placed there after being caught by the Namgis band of First Nations, the native people of Hanson Island.

Marilyn Joyce of Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Bob Lohn of the National Marine Fisheries Service in this country said the cooperation has been tremendous.

 

Monday, July 15, 2002

Springer Swims Free

Released orphaned orca shows interest in her pod

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES

HANSON ISLAND, B.C. – Springer has been sprung. The orphaned orca was released yesterday afternoon to join a pod of killer whales that swam by the mouth of the forested bay where she was penned.

The pod uses the same dialect as the baby orca, which was captured in Puget Sound and brought to a temporary home off this remote Canadian island for release.

 

 

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 115

“Based on what we saw (Saturday) night, we were quite sure that when we opened the gate, she’d go charging off. And she did go charging off,” Vancouver Aquarium President John Nightingale said.

Using suction cups, scientists have attached transmitters to the orca to follow her movements.

The cups will remain on the killer whale for about three days before they fall off and are recovered.

All in all, things are looking good for Springer, said Paul Spong, a Canadian whale researcher who also served on a U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service advisory panel.

“We thought it might take Springer two or three days to adjust from the trip, but she did so immediately,” Spong said.

He said the killer whale was vocalizing and chasing salmon as soon as she arrived in her pen.

“She was vigorous and vocalizing and obviously interacting with the other whales. We were listening practically with our mouths hanging open (Saturday) night.”

Although he’s hopeful that Springer will successfully integrate into the pod, Spong said that he’d like to wait awhile longer before evaluating the ultimate outcome of Springer’s rescue and transport.

Her big moment came early yesterday, when 20 to 30 killer whales swam by the mouth of the bay. The little female pushed against the seaside netting, called to them and “spy-hopped,” sticking her head out of the water to see what was happening.

The whales that passed by in the predawn darkness included members of her three-member natal pod and others from their language group, called the A-clan, plus other whales. “This is not very scientific, but I think she knows she’s home,” said

Lance Barrett-Lennard of the Vancouver Aquarium, which oversaw her care in her home waters.

Any doubts about the young orphan’s response — that she might want to stay in the pen, or that she might be intimidated or frightened — evaporated.

“Seeing her last night pushing at the net, spy-hopping to see what was going on” made clear her interest in leaving the 50-foot-square, 35-foot-deep pen in Dong Chong Bay, on this small island off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. “Her calls were so loud they practically blew our earphones off,” Barrett-Lennard said.

The passing whales did not appear to notice her cries amid their own — which was just as well, he said. Having dozens of killer whales surrounding the pen in the dark would have been “a bit daunting.”

Springer was responding to calls to whales from subpods A-24, her grandmother’s pod, and A12, which Spong described as Springer’s “distant cousins.”

The 2-year-old female, named A73 for the birth order in her pod, arrived here late Saturday after a 400-mile trip aboard a donated high-speed ferry. The whale, which had wandered by herself to the busy, boat-filled waters of Puget Sound, was captured a month ago after whale experts feared for her health and safety.

Since A73 was removed from a water-filled travel container aboard the 140-foot catamaran ferry Saturday, the 12-foot-long orca has been “extremely frisky,” aquarium veterinarian David Huff said. The journey from a net pen near Seattle lasted just over 13 hours.

 

 

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 112

Forty salmon – caught locally by First Nations fishermen who were granted a special out-of-season permit for just this purpose – were in the pen when she arrived, with more in an adjacent pen for later. 

Screen shot 2013-04-27 at 9.47.04 PMA73, which was not fed for the 18 hours before her journey home, hunted and dined all Saturday night, Barrett-Lennard said.

Her caretakers worked from a 50-foot boat, the use of which was donated for the trip, as was the water jet-powered catamaran ferry Catalina Jet. The donation of the Catalina Jet from Nichols Brothers

Boat Builders of Whidbey Island made the relocation possible, said Nightingale, the Vancouver Aquarium president. A long truck ride would have been too hard on her and an airplane flight too expensive, he said.

Boatyard President Matt Nichols, who estimated the value of his contribution at about a $100,000, has already volunteered use of the ferry to bring another wayward orca home. That whale, L98, is a young male from a pod that summers near the San Juan Islands.

L98 has been on the west side of Vancouver Island since November, and there are reports of friendly but potentially dangerous encounters with boaters. Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans is investigating and charges and fines are anticipated against the boaters, spokeswoman Michelle McCombs said.

L98’s mother is still alive, and researchers on both sides of the border hope he will rejoin the L-pod as it travels north after summer-salmon hunting. A73 — called “Springer” by Canadian researchers — was first spotted in mid-January near the Vashon Island ferry dock. Worried about her health and the danger posed by boats and people, experts took the unprecedented step of attempting to capture her and bring her home. She was caught June 13 — underweight and suffering from worms and an itchy skin condition. Her health problems were cleared up during four weeks in a pen at a research station across Puget Sound from Seattle.

A73’s arrival here was “a very emotional experience” for orca researchers, Barrett-Lennard said. “I don’t think there was a dry eye in the net pen.”

But we haven’t seen the last of Springer yet. Spong said that Springer’s pod — one of 34 frequenting the waters of the Northwest — generally spends at least a month each summer in Puget Sound. Killer whales, actually a kind of dolphin, are found in all the world’s oceans. Resident pods in the inland waters of the United States and Canada are struggling with dwindling salmon runs, increasing human contact and pollution.

 

July 16, 2002

Orphaned Whale Back With Pod

Associated Press

An orphan killer whale is tagging along with members of her birth pod, a day after she was returned to Canadian waters from a months-long stay near Seattle, USA.

The two-year-old, 3.6-m orca is not yet mingling with the eight other whales, but has stayed within calling distance, said John Ford, a whale expert with Canada’s Department of Fisheries.

The orca appeared to be doing fine, though she was easily distracted by boats, logs and kelp, he said. “She’s a toddler,” Lance Barrett-Lennard, of Vancouver Aquarium, explained. The young whale apparently strayed into Puget Sound, near Seattle, in January after her mother died.

 

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 113

She was captured last month because of safety concerns in the busy sound, and transported by ferry 645km to a small bay near her home waters. The eight orcas entered the bay yesterday morning and exchanged calls with the female in a temporary pen. She poked her head out of the water, as did some in the group. After her release in the afternoon, the whale paused to play with some kelp then swam west.

“Her best chance is to find a female she can bond with closely,” said aquarium vice-president of operations Clint Wright, who oversaw co-ordination of her transport north. The hope is that she will find a niche within her clan, but life as a solitary whale in Canadian waters would offer her a more secure future than she could have found in Puget Sound, he said.

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7/16/2002

Young Orca Spends Hours With her Family

The Associated Press

ROBSON BIGHT, British Columbia – A day after being released in her native waters, an orphan killer whale who spent six months dodging ferries near Seattle went to the beach with her family.

The 2-year-old whale, dubbed A73 for her birth order in her family group, visited a favorite killer whale “rubbing beach” here Monday evening with a group of about a half dozen members of A-clan, said Lance Barrett-Lennard, a Vancouver Aquarium whale expert who is monitoring her.

“It’s a good start,” Barrett-Lennard said.

Killer whales swim close to shore here on the east side of Vancouver Island and massage their bellies on the smooth stones of the beach. It’s the only place in the world where whales are known to exhibit this behavior.

Earlier Monday, the young whale had been seen swimming a quarter-mile to a half-mile behind a group of A-clan whales, and she was seen swimming alone in the early afternoon before showing up with the beach party group. A73 did not appear to be bonding with any particular female, said Graeme Ellis of Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Whale experts say that would be an ideal alliance for the little whale, who missed months of education when she wandered south last year after her mother’s death.

She was captured near Seattle on June 13 when her health worsened and her increasingly chummy behavior around boats raised safety concerns. She was pronounced in perfect health after treatment by U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service scientists and a group of private caretakers. Last Saturday, she was transported about 350 miles by high-speed catamaran ferry to Hanson Island near here.

 

 

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 114

A group of A-clan whales answered her cries Sunday and entered the small bay where she’d been penned for less than 24 hours. She was released and swam out into the waters off Vancouver Island’s northeast coast, not joining the other whales but staying within vocal range.

Barrett-Lennard and Ellis tracked her Monday in a motorboat, using the last of three transmitters attached with suction cups before her release.

Asked whether she had joined the whale group, Ellis replied, “No, she was just mixed in with them.”

But this was only her second day of freedom. There are weeks of summer ahead here as orcas gather to feed along what Barrett-Lennard calls the “salmon highway.”

Ellis and Barrett-Lennard eventually pulled their vessel back to chat with a reporter and others aboard a commercial whale-watching boat. They moved away because A73 had fallen behind her group and seemed drawn to their engine noise – a habit she picked up in her solitary travels.

While the hope is that she will join one of several groups of the A-clan whales who use her dialect, she could also live out her life as a solitary whale, or tag along behind one pod or another at a distance as a “satellite whale.” There are 105 whales in the clan, one of three orca “language groups” in these waters.

When all her transmitters have fallen off, Canada has a monitoring network of government staff, area residents and other volunteers along the hundreds of miles of coastline on both sides of Vancouver Island and all along the Inside Passage that separates the island from the mainland.

Killer whales, actually a kind of dolphin, are found in all the world’s oceans. The inland resident populations of British Columbia and Washington state feed mostly on salmon, while transient coastal populations eat marine mammals.

The resident groups are struggling now with dwindling salmon runs, increasing human encroachment and pollution.

ORPHAN ORCA

Springer’s Back in Tune with Fellow Whales

By Christopher Dunagan, Bremerton Sun Staff – 7/16/02

It didn’t take the young whale much more than a day to make contact with her fellow orcas, who greeted her with songs. After more than a day of hanging back and remaining alone, Springer caught up to her fellow killer whales Monday afternoon in Robson Bight, the site of the famous “rubbing beaches.”

The area, near the northern end of Vancouver Island, is a dedicated marine sanctuary, preserved primarily for killer whales and their rituals of rubbing their bodies on smooth beach stones. Springer, or A73, caught up with two groups of whales, about 5:20 p.m., just after the two groups had come together, said Anna Spong of Orcalab, a nearby research facility specializing in orca vocalizations. The groups are known as the A12 and A-35 matrilines, named for females that head each group.

“When they came together, they got very vocal,” Spong said. “It was a pretty incredible moment, and we were all happy to hear them.”

Springer and virtually all of the whales in Johnstone Strait have been unusually quiet since the 2-year-old orca was released to the wild Sunday, Spong said. The two groups of whales are not Springer’s immediate pod, but she has some distant relatives among them. While Springer’s mother was alive, the mother and daughter had traveled with the A35s for a time.

 

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 115

Since the marine reserve is a sanctuary for whales, the animals remain out of sight to most observers. It’s enough to know that the whales are together and that Springer has made no further attempts to interact with people, Spong said. One brief encounter with a pleasure boat was reported Sunday.

“She may be figuring out what to do,” Spong said. “It’s a complicated society she’s trying to get back into.”

Springer’s mother is presumed dead, but her grandmother, aunt and uncle are traveling together not far from where Springer was seen Monday evening. It was likely the whales could be within hearing range Monday night or today, Spong said. Springer was released Sunday at Dong Chong Bay on Hanson Island after a 12-hour boat ride Saturday from Manchester in South Kitsap, where she had been cared for a month.

Nobody knows why she initially left her fellow whales in Canada over the winter and ventured south into Puget Sound, but the effort to return the young orca to her family has captured the hearts of people throughout the world.

July 16, 2002 at 5:34 AM PST

Springer Spotted With Her Family

By KOMO Staff & News Services

ROBSON BIGHT, B.C. – Two days after being released in her native waters, Springer, an orphan killer whale who spent six months dodging ferries near Seattle, was trailing close behind her family pod.

And while she has not joined the group Tuesday, those monitoring her were pleased with her progress.

“She seems to be doing well. So far, so good,” Deborah Phelan of Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Tuesday.

The 2-year-old whale, dubbed A-73 for her birth order in her family group, spent much of Monday resting, Phelan said.

She visited a favorite killer whale “rubbing beach” on Monday evening with a group of about a half dozen members of A-clan, said Lance Barrett-Lennard, a Vancouver Aquarium whale expert who is monitoring her.

Killer whales swim close to shore here on the east side of Vancouver Island and massage their bellies on the smooth stones of the beach. It’s the only place in the world where whales are known to exhibit this behavior.

Phelan said there are no major concerns about the whale’s behavior. The orca has weeks of summer ahead here as orcas gather to feed along what Barrett-Lennard calls the “salmon highway.”

While the hope is that she will join one of several groups of the A-clan whales who use her dialect, she could also live out her life as a solitary whale, or tag along behind one pod or another at a distance as a “satellite whale.” There are 105 whales in the clan, one of three orca “language groups” in these waters.

A-73 did not appear to be bonding with any particular female, said Graeme Ellis of Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Whale experts say that would be an ideal alliance for the little whale, who missed months of education when she wandered south last year after her mother’s death.

She was captured near Seattle on June 13 when her health worsened and her increasingly chummy behavior around boats raised safety concerns. She was pronounced in perfect health after treatment by U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service scientists and a group of private caretakers. Last Saturday, she was transported about 350 miles by high-speed catamaran ferry to Hanson Island near here.

A group of A-clan whales answered her cries Sunday and entered the small bay where she’d been penned for less than 24 hours. She was released and swam out into the waters off Vancouver Island’s northeast coast, not joining the other whales but staying within vocal range.

Barrett-Lennard and Ellis tracked her Monday in a motorboat, using the last of three transmitters attached with suction cups before her release.

Ellis and Barrett-Lennard eventually pulled their vessel back to chat with a reporter and others aboard a commercial whale-watching boat. They moved away because A-73 had fallen behind her group and seemed drawn to their engine noise – a habit she picked up in her solitary travels.

 

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 116

When all her transmitters have fallen off, Canada has a monitoring network of government staff, area residents and other volunteers along the hundreds of miles of coastline on both sides of Vancouver Island and all along the Inside Passage that separates the island from the mainland.

Killer whales, actually a kind of dolphin, are found in all the world’s oceans. The inland resident populations of British Columbia and Washington state feed mostly on salmon, while transient coastal populations eat marine mammals.

The resident groups are struggling now with dwindling salmon runs, increasing human encroachment and pollution.

ORPHAN WHALE

Springer Joins in With ‘Orca Party’

By Christopher Dunagan, Bremerton Sun Staff – 7/18/02

Springer, the 2-year-old orphan orca, was seen frolicking with a large number of killer whales Wednesday in Canada’s Johnstone Strait, according to Michael Harris of Orca Conservancy.

“It’s an orca party,” he exclaimed, “and she is right in the middle of it, learning to socialize with a lot of whales.”

Harris likened the situation to someone who comes to a party uninvited and goes from one group to the next until she’s a welcome guest. About 10 a.m. Wednesday, Springer rushed into a group of whales, the A36 matriline, her distant relatives at best.

“She made a beeline and jetted right into the group with more enthusiasm than she’s had for any other whales,” Harris said.

After announcing her presence by breaching — throwing herself mostly out of the water and falling with a splash — she stayed with that group as more whales arrived. Harris said it is possible that the total number could reach 100 in the next day or two. That’s about the maximum seen at any one time.

“I can only imagine the exhilaration she’s feeling now, and maybe she’s a little nervous about it,” Harris said of Springer. “Remember, this is an experience she’s not had for maybe a year.”

Springer had wandered from British Columbia into southern Puget Sound in January, sometime after her mother died. She remained alone in the ferry lanes off Vashon Island until she was captured in June and taken to Manchester in South Kitsap. On Saturday, she was returned to Johnstone Strait on a high-speed catamaran.

 

 

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July 19, 2002

Whale Rescuers Say Effort Worth the Cost

By PEGGY ANDERSEN of the Associated Press

SEATTLE – It cost at least $670,000 in cash and in-kind services to capture, treat and transport an orphan killer whale from Puget Sound to her home waters in Canada, but those who took part say it was money well spent.

(Actual cash costs were about $266.666 USD, which were covered by grant monies earmarked specifically for marine mammal strandings, triggered by matching funds raised by U.S. environmental organizations like Orca Conservancy. – OC.)

“Absolutely,” said Matt Nichols, who estimates the value of his contribution – use of the high-speed catamaran ferry Catalina Jet – at about $100,000. That includes $8,000 for insurance coverage, to ease apprehensions about the unconventional 1,348-pound passenger.

“Delivering this little orphan kind of put tears in our eyes,” said Nichols, president of Nichols Brothers Boat Builders on Whidbey Island. The whale, dubbed A73 for her birth order in Canada’s A-pod and also known as Springer, became separated from her family last year after her mother died. In January, she showed up at the Vashon Island ferry dock near here – in poor health and hundreds of miles from home. She was freed in her home waters Sunday after an unprecedented effort by U.S. and Canadian agencies and citizens. The National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency that oversees marine mammals in the United States, logged $200,000 in Prescott grants for stranded animals, $80,000 in out-of-pocket expenses and at least $100,000 in corporate cash and in-kind contributions.

“When we get finished totaling it up I expect it to be considerably over $100,000,” spokesman Brian Gorman said of the private contributions. NMFS arranged capture of the 2-year-old killer whale in mid-June and her care for four weeks in a nearby net pen – tasks executed by a team of experts led by Keiko veteran Jeff Foster of Auburn.

“Everything about this rescue has been exceptional,” said Bob Lohn, head of NMFS’ regional office here. “But the most heartening part has been the outpouring of help from so many people.”

Contributions included crane-barge loans, a foam pad used to cushion A73 during crane-barge trips and hundreds of pounds of live salmon to feed her in the pen.

The Orphan Orca Fund, which provided $66,000 in matching funds to secure the federal grants, also kicked in money to purchase king salmon to feed the orca in Canada, said Michael Harris of Orca Conservancy, one of seven groups that established the fund.

9:30am, Friday, July 19, 2002

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Update on A73

A73 joined the very large (60-70 whales) group of killer whales in Johnstone Strait (in the area of the Michael Bigg Ecological Reserve and the rubbing beaches) late afternoon yesterday (Thursday). She was very difficult to identify because her last VHF radio tag has fallen off (just as it was supposed to). It was only by comparing digital photos from yesterday and new photos of A73 taken before release that her identity could be confirmed. Graeme Ellis of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Lance Barrett-Lennard of the Vancouver Aquarium were the only observers to confirm that she was there (contrary to what was reported by some radio stations last evening – see italics below). During the time she was observed in the Robson Bight area, Springer was associating very closely (side by side) with a 16-year-old orphaned female named A51. Dr. Barrett-Lennard and Graeme Ellis believe A51, whose mother was the well- known female A25 (Sharky – because of her uniquely shaped dorsal fin) would be a good companion for Springer.

Late yesterday evening, the big group broke up with most of the whales heading west. They were reported in the vicinity of Malcolm Island at 2100 (9:00 p.m.) by one of the Stubbs Island Whale Watching boats. Some of the large group of whales headed east and were seen at Campbell River this morning at about 0900.

 

 

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We don’t know for sure if A73 is with the larger group heading west, but we believe it is possible, and given that the group was not moving fast, she should have been able to keep up. There have been no reports last evening or today of a whale rubbing on boats. There are still a few whales left in Johnstone Strait, but it is quite foggy there this morning.

Lance notes that if they follow their normal pattern, the group may cruise up to near Port Hardy, or even into Queen Charlotte Strait, but should return to Johnstone Strait within a few days. It would be unusual (but not entirely impossible) for them to leave the area for good so early in the summer. This seems doubly unlikely given the large numbers of Chinook or King/Spring salmon in the area right now (these are the largest Pacific Salmon, and are orcas’ favorite food).

Because of the difficulty in identifying A73, Lance notes that we can expect lots of “reported sightings,” most of which will turn out not to have been accurate. If DFO or the Aquarium hears about a whale approaching or rubbing on a boat, it will be investigated immediately. Again, boaters are asked to actively move away from a small, lone whale approaching them.

Lance and Graeme report that there are humpback whales in the area (west of Johnstone Strait) this morning. They have taken several photos of tail flukes for identification purposes.

Maze Salutes Orphaned Orca

KING 5 News – 7/18/2002

KENT, Wash. – A local farm has saluted Springer by making a maze in the orphaned orca’s honor.

Traffic KING caught the view from above Thursday morning at a field in Kent. It shows the orphaned orca swimming with another whale.

The word “Springer” is also carved into the corn crop.

http://www.king5.com/localnews/stories/NW_071802WABspringermaze.2326661.html

 

Natural Born Killers Condemned to Die

By DEBORAH JONES, Special to The Vancouver Globe and Mail – 7/20/02

VANCOUVER — The tale of Springer, the spunky orphaned orca, has the superficial tenderness of a Disney flick. Below the surface, however, lurks a film noir: Just what is causing so many killer whales, Springer’s mother among them, to disappear from the waters off British Columbia?

Since January, when the lost and lonely youngster wandered into busy Puget Sound near Seattle, the North American media and public have been transfixed.

Springer demonstrated no fear of humans and was approaching boats in the busy waterway. She also was sick and underweight, so the U.S. National Marine and Fisheries Service captured her, nursed her back to health, then sent her aboard a catamaran to Canada last weekend. Since then, she has been shadowing a pod of her relatives, but still sidling up to boats that come near.

Scientists hope that her story will have a happy ending, that her affinity for humans will diminish and she will be adopted by the pod. But little has been said about what produced Springer’s predicament in the first place. And unless that puzzle is solved, both she and her kind may face a future that one expert describes as “a dead end.”

Killer whales are sometimes called the canaries of the oceans. Miners carried the birds into coal pits, and as long as they lived, the miners figured they could breath safely. Likewise, orcas are a barometer of the ocean environment because they are at the top of the food chain and their complex social groups make them especially sensitive to change.

Now scientists suspect that some of B.C.’s “ocean canaries” are gasping for life.

Emerging research suggests that noise from vessels hampers the orcas’ ability to navigate, communicate and hunt for food. As well, recent tests show that their flesh contains record-high levels of such toxins as polychlorinated biphenyls, which may make them more susceptible to disease and reproductive and neurological problems. To make matters worse, overfishing of salmon and other marine species suggests that their food supply is dwindling.

Such factors may explain the precipitous drop in Vancouver Island’s so-called southern resident population. Within six years, the number of whales off the island’s southern coast has plunged from 100 to 78.

 

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Researchers now fear that the whales, which elicit oohs and ahhs and are much photographed by ferry passengers, boaters and coastal dwellers in B.C. and Washington State, are effectively extinct. Because whale pods stay together for life, tend not to take in newcomers and now have so few breeding-age members left.

Some of the southern pods’ woes can be explained by the capture of young animals for the aquarium trade in the 1970s. But even the stronger community of about 300 off the island’s north coast has younger adults such as Springer’s mother vanishing. “It suggests,” notes Volker Deecke, a marine mammal researcher at the Vancouver Aquarium and University of British Columbia, “that something else is going on.”

Some problems would be easy to fix if people simply paid attention, says Mr. Deecke, who is writing a PhD thesis on orca acoustics. He suspects that noise pollution “could have a tremendous impact on these animals, although we can’t prove it yet.”

Vessels are designed to expel exhaust and contain their propeller noises under water, for the benefit of people above the surface. In areas of high marine traffic, the subsurface din is akin to a city full of cars without mufflers, Mr. Deecke says. “We don’t hear the noise because we’ve got our ears in the air. . . . The biggest problem is from cruise ships, tankers and (fishing boats) pulling nets.”

The navy and whale-watching industry already know how to rig vessels for silent running. Short of that, Mr. Deecke recommends such simple measures as ensuring that propellers are working efficiently and mounting boat engines on elastic shock absorbers. “The technology is out there, but people aren’t aware of the problem,” he notes.

Screen shot 2013-04-27 at 10.19.53 PMOur Wild Emotional Ride with Springer Proves to be Whale of a Tale

Why Should we meddle with nature this way?

Here’s why…

Paula Brook, Vancouver Sun – Tuesday, July 23, 2002

For those of us who love a good animal story, the adventures of Springer the orphaned orca has been a wild ride. With each day’s news, we’ve found ourselves tossed this way and that on a sea of emotions, which I suppose is nothing new where whale tales are concerned. Though this one might be the best we’ve heard yet.

When they discovered the lost two-year-old killer whale last January, malnourished and ill and flirting with death in a Puget Sound ferry lane, we were sick with worry. A two-year-old whale is about as smart as a two-year-old human, and as vulnerable. No one believed she would live for long in all that traffic and pollution.

When they corralled her into a rehab pen near Seattle in June, treating her for worms and whale pox and fattening her up on all-you-can-eat salmon, we were relieved but torn: Would she survive only to star in the Free Willy sequel, Free Springer?

When she was shipped to Johnstone Strait earlier this month to reunite with her pod, we were pleased and proud – that our Canadian scientists have so much detailed, intimate knowledge of these creatures they were able to trace her lineage directly to one nuclear pod within the extended family of 19 pods – 200 or so killer whales – that ply the waters of British Columbia’s Inside Passage each summer.

When she spotted her relatives within hours of arriving in her home waters and started breaching and crying out to them in obvious excitement, we too were excited. What luck! What planning! What an awesome display of love and longing in the wild!

Or were we kidding ourselves – ascribing our own feelings, along with our need for some good old- fashioned summertime adventure, to these mysterious animals?

When her close kin appeared at first to ditch her, swimming off too fast for the little female to keep up, the whale tale hit a sour note. We reran the story with a sad new plot line: What if Springer had not simply wandered away from the pod after the death of her mother, as scientists had suggested, but had been rejected – and would be again, and again? What’s more, how would we keep her on the road to reintegration (and away from Skid Sound) after last week’s news that her radio transmitter had fallen off?

Another day, another worry: Rejected by her family, she immediately fell into her bad old habit of swimming alongside boats, rubbing up against their hulls. An even sadder story sprang to mind – of Keiko, the star of Free Willy, who has spent the last four years steadfastly refusing to be freed from his

 

ORCA CONSERVANCY – THE SPRINGER FILE Page 120

rehab pen in Iceland. Teams of international scientists and millions of dollars have been spent trying to deprogram the world’s most famous trick whale. He now seems to get it that his dinner is more likely to swim by than be tossed from a bucket, but he still seems to prefer human contact to a swim on the wild side, and would probably die if released.

But wait a minute! Late last week, the sky suddenly brightened over a frolicking Springer who had latched on to two distant cousins, also orphans. A hopeful note was sounded by pioneer whale researcher, Dr. Paul Spong, observing the family drama from his OrcaLab on Hanson Island in Johnstone Strait. She may stand a better chance bonding to whales that share her fate, he suggested.

So whales are capable of empathy? Who knew?

At this point you could say, who cares? The critics are starting to weigh in now, with questions about how far we ought to go meddling with nature, trying to be heroes, spending close to a million dollars rescuing a single whale while hunger and abuse and homelessness is rife in our own human pod.

But here’s why we should. Because we have done this damage and are now, after decades of dedicated research, able to undo some of it. We are learning to be stewards instead of trainers. Learning to listen to the whales, and to the scientists who know what they’re talking about.

Consider the work that has been done over the past three decades by Paul Spong and his army of volunteers at OrcaLab. Believing that the best research is done in the wild with minimal human interference in animal behavior and habitat, Spong has basically written the encyclopedia on orca family life and has used it as a shield against market forces that would put whaling and whale shows back in business, given an opening.

The same philosophy is espoused by the Vancouver Aquarium, which defended its own captive whale program for years on the basis that public exposure would foster respect for these creatures and concern for their natural habitat.

A lot of people didn’t buy that defence, of course, and we all know what happened to the whale shows. Far better for all of us creatures, large and small, is the kind of front-line action we’ve seen this month, for which thousands of staff hours have been volunteered and a major fund-raising drive launched.

And what will you get for your donation, should you choose to dive into the rescue drama? The chance to play a part in what we can only hope will be the first man-made reunion of a whale with its pod.

By the time you read this, who knows? Springer might be breaching and bumping happily with those empathic orphans, or she might have made some addle-brained decision to leave her buddies for the boat lane.

Who cares? Apparently, lots of us.

 

NEXT Part Five

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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