Brave Little Hunter is free: Orca calf swims out of lagoon where she had been trapped for a month | CBC News (2024)

British Columbia

The Ehattesaht First Nation says a killer whalecalf that had been trapped in a remote Vancouver Island lagoon for more than a month is now free after she swam out on her own early Friday morning.

Ehattesaht First Nation says young killer whale swam over sandbar on her own at high tide

Brave Little Hunter is free: Orca calf swims out of lagoon where she had been trapped for a month | CBC News (1)

Joel Ballard · CBC News

·

After weeks of rescue attempts, the Ehattesaht First Nation says the orca calf known as Brave Little Hunter has finally freed herself from a remote Vancouver Island tidal lagoon and is now in open water.

The Ehattesaht First Nation says a killer whalecalf that had been trapped in a remote Vancouver Island lagoon for more than a month is now free after sheswam out on herown early Friday morning.

The nation saidkʷiisaḥiʔis, or Brave Little Hunter, swam over the sandbar and out into open water during high tide around 2:30 a.m. PT.

After a long night of feedingkʷiisaḥiʔis and watching the calf playin the lagoon, the nation said, a small group"stood as witnesses to watch her swim under the bridge and down the inlet."

"Today the community of Zeballos and people everywhere are waking up to some incredible news and what can only be described as pride for the strength this little orca has shown," said Chief Simon John in a statement.

  • Trapped B.C. orca calf eats seal meat, putting rescue on hold

The two-year-old female transientkiller whale had been stuck in the tidal lagoonnear the village of Zeballos, B.C., since March 23, when herpregnant mother became trapped at low tide and died on a rocky beach.

For weeks, First Nation members, DFO marine mammal experts, whale scientists and boat and machine operatorsgathered in the small community of about 200 people to plan how to free the calf.

Those discussions resulted in multiple rescue missions — all of themunsuccessful.

Rescuers attempted to catch the orca and transport herby sling;they usedrecorded killer whale vocalizations to coax herout of the lagoon;around 10 boats attempted to herd the orca by usingoikomi pipes to create a loud noise underwater; and a violinist even tried to serenade the calfto freedom.

But in the end,kʷiisaḥiʔiswas her own saviour.

Brave Little Hunter is free: Orca calf swims out of lagoon where she had been trapped for a month | CBC News (3)

Connecting calf with family

After kʷiisaḥiʔisswam free,John saysthe calf was later seenin EspinosaInlet and a team followed heras she moved towardEsperanza Inlet and the open ocean.

The team, which includes members of Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Marine Mammal Response and Bay Cetology,is hopeful that once the calf is in the ocean, hercalls will be heard by herfamily.

Martin Haulena, director of mammal health at the Vancouver Aquarium, says the calf has overcome some significant hurdles, but shestill has a few challenges ahead.

Primarily, she needs to be reunited with her pod.

"She's a two-year old calf. Normally shewould still be very dependent on mom and the family group," he said.

If sheis able to find herpod, Haulena says he's"very sure"shewill be adopted by herfamily members.

However, he says rescuers are also trying to limit their contact with the calf, including feedings, so she doesn't become habituated and dependent on their support.

  • Rescuers pause efforts to free trapped orca calf

John says officials and nationmembers are now putting protective measures in place to ensure there is no contact betweenkʷiisaḥiʔisand other people or boats.

They have asked the public to stay away from the area.

"With this part of the challengesolved by kʷiisaḥiʔis herself, every opportunity needs to be afforded to have her back with her family with as little human interaction as possible," he said.

Calf's mother couldn't be saved

While this chapter ofkʷiisaḥiʔis' life has ended on a high note, it began with a tragedy.

Back in March, her15-year-old motherbecamebeached in the lagoon.

Video of the incidentshowsdozens of people trying to save the stranded orca,but shedied.

Brave Little Hunter is free: Orca calf swims out of lagoon where she had been trapped for a month | CBC News (4)

A necropsy later confirmed the mother was pregnant with another calf.

As the weeks continued and the rescues failed, there were concerns overthewellbeing of kʷiisaḥiʔis and whether the calf was getting enough food and fresh water.

The orca was examined by experts and veterinarian staff from the Vancouver Aquarium who said in mid-Aprilthat sheappearedto be in good health and was swimming well.

  • Stranded killer whale was pregnant, necropsy shows

Last week, the calf also ate seal meat for what was believed to be the first time, after members of the neighbouring Nuchatlaht First Nation tossed about 18 kilograms of seal meat into the water.

WATCH | Reporter Joel Ballard explains how strandedorca's ordeal ended with swim to freedom:

Brave Little Hunter is free: Orca calf swims out of lagoon where she had been trapped for a month | CBC News (5)

Orca calf swims out of lagoon after being trapped for a month

24 days ago

Duration 4:18

The Ehattesaht First Nation says the killer whale calf known as kʷiisaḥiʔis, or Brave Little Hunter, swam over the sandbar and out into open water on its own after weeks of being trapped.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brave Little Hunter is free: Orca calf swims out of lagoon where she had been trapped for a month | CBC News (6)

Joel Ballard

Joel Ballard is a reporter with the CBC in Vancouver. You can reach him at joel.ballard@cbc.ca

    With files from Jon Hernandez

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