Orca, stuck overnight, finds its way into Strait

Researchers identify whale as 8-year-old male from transient pod

PORT ANGELES — A young orca whale safely found its way out of a lagoon near McKinley Paper Mill on Monday.

The whale was initially spotted swimming in the lagoon late Sunday night, researchers with Feiro Marine Life Center and the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network said.

The whale made several unsuccessful attempts to exit the lagoon.

“There is a canal connecting the open water to the lagoon,” said Forbes Darby, communication program manager for NOAA Fisheries. “The entrance to the canal is covered with a bridge that cars can cross. The onsite responder noted that the whale made several unsuccessful attempts to leave throughout the night, but did not appear to want to swim under the bridge into the canal.”

Researchers with the Orca Behavioral Institute of Friday Harbor believe the whale was an 8-year-old male member of a transient pod of orcas known to travel to this region.

According to Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands that tracks the T65A pod, as part of a conservation effort, this young male was born in 2014 and was the youngest member of the pod until spring 2018, when the pod appeared in the Salish Sea again with a new calf, T65A6.

T65A remained in the lagoon near the mill for most of Sunday night.

At around 8:30 a.m. Monday, he reportedly made his way to the mouth of the canal and then to the harbor and was last sighted making his way out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, researchers said.

May marks the beginning of the spring migration for orcas. Although they do not have predictable migration patterns, there are well-known feeding grounds in southern Canada and northern Alaska, according to NOAA Fisheries.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at [email protected]

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