Transient orca lured out of Comox harbour

It took a call from friends to lure a large male killer whale out of Comox Harbour. 

Department of Fisheries staff made up a mix tape featuring calls from the male's pod, and he responded immediately, heading for the open ocean.

Concerns for the transient orca -- known as TO73B to researchers -- were growing, as he had been in the busy harbour for 11 days, and it's about to get busier over the long weekend with dragon boat races and swimmers descending.

The DFO's Paul Cottrell said something had to be done.

“We got a group of our experts together to look at options, given that this was very atypical behaviour and we didn’t want the whale to habituate any further to this area,” Cottrell said. “It’s dangerous for the whale and the people in that area and people swim in that estuary. These animals eat mammals.”

Cottrell said the adult transient immediately responded to recordings of his pod-mates and followed the sounds out to sea.

“He came barreling out of there and it just worked so well and we’re so relieved that the animal left the area,” Cottrell said.

Cottrell said it's a relief as the big male was posing a danger to himself and others in the busy harbor.

“We were getting concerned that the animal was staying there and of course that’s a very busy estuary,” Cottrell said. “There was lots of interaction. The animal was playing with fishing gear, crab floats, and even towing a sail boat anchor at one point.”

It's not clear why the whale stayed so long but at last report he had already made it to Alert Bay.

“Last night he was seen passing through Campbell River through Discovery Pier,” Cottrell said. “I just got a report, he’s actually up by Alert Bay right now. So he’s gone over 110 nautical miles in about 19 hours.”

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