Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Transient Killer Whale T44 Found Dead March 30

On Monday, March 30, a 25-foot male killer whale was spotted floating off the north end of Vancouver Island by Port Hardy. Researchers and scientists retrieved the body and the following day identified this whale as T-44, a 33-year old male transient.The body was towed into Telegraph Cove where a necropsy was performed. Stephen Raverty, veterinary pathologist from B.C.'s Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford, said the carcass was in excellent condition and showed no signs of malnutrition. However, during the necropsy nothing was noted as the definitive cause of this animal's death. The animal did have remains of a harbor seal in it's belly.John Ford, Lead Scientist with the Department of Fisheries in Nanaimo, interviewed on CBC radio this morning and stated that he first photographed and cataloged this male as a calf off the west side of Vancouver Island back in 1976. T-44 and his family were frequently spotted in the waters surrounding Vancouver Island, but the west side of the island seemed to be the favored part of their foraging range. T-44 was last spotted in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in March 2009. Hopefully the samples taken will identify the cause of T-44's death but a wealth of other knowledge can also be gained from recovering and necropsying a fresh killer whale carcass. For instance, the contaminant levels contained in the blubber and other tissues can be measured. Killer whales tend to carry high levels of POPs (persistent organic pollutants like PCBs and PBDEs) as they feed so high up the food chain and these contaminants can cause problems with their immune and reproductive systems.

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