SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Carcasses of two killer whales found up river near Dillingham


October 10, 2011

(SitNews) - NOAA Fisheries confirmed late Saturday that two of the three killer whales that have been in the Nushagak River during the past month have died. The third whale was observed Saturday afternoon swimming downriver in the vicinity of Portage Creek.

A biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted an aerial survey Saturday afternoon. Based on a tip from a local resident who said he had seen a killer whale carcass near Portage Creek, the biologist was able to locate that carcass floating, and then another whale carcass a few miles downstream on the bank.

NOAA Biologist Barbara Mahoney said Sunday morning that a boat survey would be conducted Sunday in an effort to locate the remaining live killer whale.

Local residents say the three killer whales had been in the Nushagak River for at least three weeks. Scientists believe the killer whales succumbed to stress from being in the freshwater, outside their normal marine habitat.

After reports on Friday identified the whales in lower Nushagak River, above Portage Creek, officials flew a survey from Dillingham to New Stuyahok; however the killer whales were not found. Although the biologists hoped the killerwhales had moved into salt water, a survey was then planned for Saturday to further investigate the whales' location.

There have been no reported sightings of the third killer whale on the Nushagak River since Saturday, when it was last spotted swimming downriver from Portage Creek in the saltwater tidal area. An aerial survey will be conducted Monday in another effort to locate that third whale. An aerial survey along the Nushagak River was planned for this [Monday] afternoon to verify the location of the two killer whale carcasses discovered Saturday, and to see if the third killer whale can be sighted.

The carcasses will be secured to shore and NOAA Fisheries will lead an interagency team of veterinarians to perform a necropsy on the whales early this week. Once the necropsies are complete, NOAA Fisheries will coordinate with the communities for their placement.

A team of four veterinarians will arrive in Dillingham Tuesday morning and begin necropsies of the deceased killer whales. Necropsy activities are expected to take at least 2 days. A killer whale specialist from SeaWorld,San Diego will lead the necropsies, while a NOAA Fisheries veterinarian will lead necropsy logistics.

Preliminary results from the necropsies could be available by the end of the week.

If you encounter marine mammals, stay at least 100 yards away for your own safety, and to prevent harassment to the animals. It is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to harass marine mammals such as whales, which includes any action that would cause a behavior change in the animals.

If you happen to see a marine mammal in distress or stranded, report it to NOAA Fisheries right away by calling the Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at 877-925-7773.



Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews



Three killer whales loitering in fresh water 30 miles up river near Dillingham - Marine mammal scientists from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service said today they have received numerous reports of three killer whales that are lingering in the Nushagak River.



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