Dead Orca Found in Canada Most Likely Died Due to Blunt Trauma to the Head
Initial necropsy from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada revealed that the cause of dead of the killer whale found off the Sunshine Coast, north of Vancouver, was a blunt-force trauma to its head and dorsal side.
According to the report from CBS Seattle, the 18-year old male orca was seen floating last December 20, 2016 near the shore of Sechelt. Nicknamed J-34, the 22-feet long killer whale was part of the endangered southern resident killer whale population living in the waters off southern British Colombia and Washington State.
"There's a big effort going on and of course, when we get a fresh carcass where we can get more information on cause of death and the details around that, we want to know what happened and why, and if it's a human-caused issue, how we can mitigate that going forward is really important," explained Paul Cottrell, Pacific marine mammal coordinator with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in a report from Peninsula Daily News.
Officials were careful to say the cause of the blunt-force trauma. The trauma can be caused by another whale or a shipping vessel. However, the absence of bite marks and scratch marks in the carcass strongly suggests that the animal was struck by a shipping vessel.
Overall, the necropsy report showed that the whale was in good condition before its demise. Additionally, the presence of hematoma in the whale's carcass indicates that J-34 was still alive for a time after the injury.
After the necropsy, the whale carcass will be left outside for about a year to be eaten and cleaned by various organisms. These organisms will strip all the organic matter of the carcass, living the bones. The bones will then be reassembled and displayed by the Sechelt First Nation, which helped in the retrieval of the dead whale's body from the shore.