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B.C. rescue team regroups after little orca thwarts capture in remote lagoon

The Ehattesaht First Nation deployed a canoe and other resources to try and rescue the orphaned orca, but were unsuccessful, at a lagoon near Zeballos, B.C., Friday, April 12, 2024. (Chad Hipolito / The Canadian Press) The Ehattesaht First Nation deployed a canoe and other resources to try and rescue the orphaned orca, but were unsuccessful, at a lagoon near Zeballos, B.C., Friday, April 12, 2024. (Chad Hipolito / The Canadian Press)
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A second attempt to rescue an orphaned killer whale calf stranded in a remote British Columbia lagoon will not take place on Saturday after an initial effort to capture the young orca failed a day earlier.

An administrator working with the Ehattesaht First Nation on the whale rescue attempt said the team is regrouping and planning its next effort to save the young orca, but said there is currently no date set for the next operation.

Rescuers said the orca evaded capture during Friday's initial attempt to corral her into the shallows of the lagoon with a net, place her in a sling and carry her to open waters.

Fisheries Department marine mammal co-ordinator Paul Cottrell said there was a huge effort to catch the calf but she's “very smart” and they have to rethink their strategies.

He said rescuers, including members of the Ehattesaht First Nation, Vancouver Aquarium staff and other experts, aren't giving up and remain optimistic. They note the calf is still in good health and swimming well.

The two-year-old whale has been alone in Little Espinosa Inlet, more than 450 kilometres northwest of Victoria, for three weeks since its pregnant mother was beached at low tide and died on March 23.

The two whales entered the lagoon last month by swimming through a narrow and fast-moving channel connecting it to the ocean.

Efforts to persuade the calf to swim back through the shallow channel proved futile.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2024.

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