In 2002, a killer whale was spotted alone and emaciated in Puget Sound, near Seattle, Washington. Researchers kept a close watch on her, and determined after several months to bring her to a rehabilitation facility. They named the whale Springer. When she was strong enough and her pod had made contact, Springer was released and was eventually welcomed back into the pod. Now, the first killer whale to successfully reintegrate into the wild is a mother.
Springer was recently spotted along the British Columbia coast with a calf and both are believed to be in good health.
Graeme Ellis, a research technician with DFO’s Pacific Biological Station, was the first to confirm sighting of Springer and her calf (whose age and gender are not yet determined.) Ellis says the sighting is exciting and Springer’s motherhood shows a lot of hope: “To me, it was going to be the ultimate sign that the re-introduction was a success…that she became an active member of the population.”
Marine mammal researcher, Dr. John Ford agrees, stating it’s gratifying to see Springer thriving after all the effort that went into her rehabilitation and release.
“… it gives us hope that if this kind of event takes place in the future, provided all the right bits are in place, that these kinds of efforts can be successful,” said Dr. Ford.
Photo credit: Vancouver Aquarium Cetacean Research Program on Facebook