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Orphan orca's extended family spotted off northeast side of Vancouver Island

A two-year-old female orca calf is shown at the Little Espinosa Inlet near Zeballos, B.C., on Friday, April 19, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito A two-year-old female orca calf is shown at the Little Espinosa Inlet near Zeballos, B.C., on Friday, April 19, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
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Members of a killer whale pod related to an orphan orca calf that escaped a remote British Columbia tidal lagoon last month have been spotted off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.

Marine scientist Jared Towers says in a social media post he was surprised to see members of the calf's great grandmother's pod swimming in ocean waters near Alert Bay.

Towers, an expert in identifying whales by their distinct individual markings, says he saw the T109 pod swim out of Pearse Pass near Alert Bay on Monday, but the female orphan known as kwiisahi?is or Brave Little Hunter was not with the killer whales.

Alert Bay is about 100 kilometres north of Zeballos near Esperanza Inlet where kwiisahi?is was last reportedly seen earlier this month, after she swam free of the lagoon where she had been trapped for weeks after her pregnant mother became stranded and died on March 23.

Towers, who could not be reached for comment, says in his post there have been no reported sightings of the calf since May 10, which likely means she is on the move looking for family.

He says there are previous cases of lost or orphaned killer whale calves reuniting with their extended families or being adopted by other orcas, but it takes time and is not guaranteed.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2024.

Correction

This story has been updated to correct the location of Alert Bay, relative to Zeballos. It is about 100 kilometres north.

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