Very sorry to share the news that a juvenile orca calf who was found on the Washington coast near Long Beach has been identified as L-112 (Sooke). She was approximately 3 years old, the daughter of L-86 (Surprise).

L112 and her mother, L86 (Photo courtesy Center for Whale Research)

The necropsy report by Cascadia Research et al states that the cause of death is still unknown. (Warning: the report contains graphic and potentially disturbing photos). It also includes this very troubling data:

“Internal exam revealed significant trauma around the head, chest and right side; at this point the cause of these injuries is unknown. There have been reports of sonar activity in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the past week and a half and members of K and L pod were reportedly in the area at the time as well. We do not know if this whale was among those in the area but the possibility is under consideration.”

 

Did sonar deployment kill this young orca? We don’t know yet, but per the necropsy, it is a possibility.

L112 and L86 (Photo courtesy Center for Whale Research)

I am sorry for the loss of any orca in this Endangered population, but particularly this one.

Not too long ago, good friends of ours in Whale Trail communities along Highway 112 on the Olympic Peninsula adopted this very whale because of her ID number (112). Schools and other community organizations along the Strait of Juan de Fuca enthusiastically participated in the Whale Museum’s contest to name her.

  • Orca calf survival rates before they reach 1 are only 50/50. When a calf has survived its first year, it becomes eligible to be adopted through the Whale Museum. Each year, the Whale Museum holds a contest to name the year-old whales. L112 was nicknamed “Sooke” in 2010.

Whether Sooke died from natural or non-natural causes is not yet clear. We look forward to learning the test results and will keep you posted here.

Most of all, we hope that the death of this young whale will inform and strengthen our resolve to protect her kin, our beloved southern resident orcas. They cannot endure many losses like this, and they simply cannot disappear on our watch.

L112 Breaching (Photo courtesy Center for Whale Research)