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Springer the orca, rescued 15 years ago, spotted with new calf

Springer, the once-tiny orca rescued in Puget Sound and returned to Johnstone Strait 15 years ago, has given birth to a second calf. The northern resident killer whale was spotted with a new youngster on B.C.
orca Springer-01.jpg
Springer the orca with her second calf: The population of southern resident orcas is already at a 30-year low, with just 78 in the Salish Sea.

Springer, the once-tiny orca rescued in Puget Sound and returned to Johnstone Strait 15 years ago, has given birth to a second calf.

The northern resident killer whale was spotted with a new youngster on B.C.’s north-central coast by CetaceaLab and confirmed by federal Fisheries staff.

Springer made headlines around the world. She is the first known case of a whale being captured and successfully reintegrated with her pod in the wild.

Calf No. 2 follows the birth of Springer’s first calf in 2013.

Springer, officially called A-73, is a healthy adult orca today. But she was orphaned and alone when she was found in Puget Sound near Seattle in 2002. The lonely two-year-old befriended a ferry and appeared sickly.

Puget Sound is a busy shipping area and whale experts figured she would die if left there. Canada and the U.S. teamed up to rescue her and return her to B.C. to be reunited with her family.

The little whale was captured and placed in a net pen in Washington state for a month where a daily diet of salmon helped restore her to good health.

She was moved into a tank on board a catamaran and transported to Blackfish Sound at the northeast end of Vancouver Island. There she went into another pen, putting on a show by leaping into the air.

She was released and reunited with relatives and has remained in good condition since then.

“Fifteen and half years ago Springer was orphaned, 300 miles from home, starving, sick and completely alone,” said Lance Barrett-Lennard, director of the Cetacean Research Program at Ocean Wise.

“Her rescue, relocation, reunification with relatives and transition to motherhood is an incredible story. I see it as testimony to both the resiliency of killer whales as a species and to the wonderful things we humans can do when we work together on behalf of — rather than against — nature.”

Barrett-Lennard was with the Vancouver Aquarium at the time and remained on the water to watch over Springer’s reunion with other whales.

Paul Spong, of OrcaLab, based on Hanson Island off Vancouver Island, said: “Springer’s story is an inspiration on many levels.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com