News Release: Nushagak River Killer Whales Updates
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National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Regional Office

Humpback whale tails. Photo: Dave Csepp

NOAA Fisheries News Releases

Julie Speegle, 907-586-7032 w., 907-321-7032 c.

Nushagak River Killer Whales Updates

Sunday, October 16, 8:45 a.m.

NOAA has received word that the third of three killer whales that had spent at least three weeks in the Nushagak River has been found dead. The carcass of the juvenile killer whale was found Friday near Grass Island, an island in the Nushagak River across from Dillingham in an area that is tidally influenced. Based on the description of the location where the animal was found by a local resident, biologists believe the juvenile whale would've had to have swum there, rather than having been carried there by the tide.

There is no word yet on plans for a necropsy or to collect samples from the marine mammal carcass.

Thursday, October 13, 10:45 a.m.

A team of six veterinarians Wednesday performed a necropsy on the second killer that was found dead along the Nushagak River last weekend. The necropsy took place near Black Point, downriver from Portage Creek on the Nushagak River. Veterinarians report the killer whale was an adult female which measured 6-meters, 45-centimeters (slightly larger than the adult female examined Tuesday, which measured 6-meters, 20-centimeters). It showed signs of moderate scavenging, but no signs of human interaction. The necropsy revealed no specific indication as to cause of death. The team collected a full range of samples from the animal.

At this time, there is no specific concern that ties the deaths of the two killer whales together, but that is a question that is under investigation.

There have been no reported sightings of the third killer whale, a smaller whale thought to be a juvenile, since it was last seen swimming downriver of Portage Creek on Saturday.

The team of veterinarians plans to depart from Dillingham today, taking with them over 100 samples to be analyzed. A full necropsy report is expected in 4-6 weeks.

This will be the last update until/unless further information becomes available.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 11:25 a.m.

A team of veterinarians Tuesday performed a necropsy exam on an adult, female killer whale. The carcass of the whale had been secured to a beach in Dillingham, Alaska, after it was discovered floating in the Nushagak River Saturday.

Dr. Judy St. Leger, director of pathology and research at SeaWorld, reports that the animal was examined for human interactions, and no evidence was found.

Diagnostic and biological samples were collected from the whale and will be tested for a suite of data, including age, genetic status and possible infection.

The main finding of the necropsy was that the female killer whale had a large, late-term fetus, which may indicate pregnancy complications.

The team will perform a necropsy on the second adult killer whale found beached along the river Saturday. It is hoped the veterinarians will have a better understanding of what happened following that necropsy.

Samples collected will be used during a full investigation into the cause of death for the whales. A full necropsy report is expected to be available in 4-8 weeks.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 3:08 p.m.

An interagency team of veterinarians is on the ground in Dillingham this afternoon performing a necropsy on the first killer whale, which had been found floating in the Nushagak River on Saturday, and was towed downriver to a beach near Dillingham and secured. A number of local residents have volunteered to assist.

The team plans to perform a necropsy on the second killer whale tomorrow (Wednesday).

There have been no reported sightings of the third killer whale, believed to be the juvenile, last seen swimming downriver from Portage Creek Saturday afternoon.

Preliminary results from the necropsies may be available late this week. NOAA Fisheries will send out updates as more information becomes available.

Monday, October 10, 2011, 1:08 p.m.

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. An aerial survey along the Nushagak River is planned for this afternoon to verify the location of the two killer whale carcasses discovered Saturday, and to see if the third killer whale can be sighted. 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.

Further updates will be made as information becomes available.

Monday, October 10, 2011, 6:43 p.m.

No third whale spotted today during aerial survey. No other new information.

Sunday, Oct. 9, 5:06 p.m.

There were no reported sightings of the third killer whale today on the Nushagak River. NOAA confirmed yesterday that the carcasses of two of the killer whales were found in the Portage Creek area, about 15-20 river miles from Dillingham. The third killer whale was lasted spotted yesterday downriver of Portage Creek in the saltwater tidal area. An aerial survey will be conducted Monday in another effort to locate that third whale.

A NOAA veterinarian will lead an interagency team to perform a necropsy on each of the deceased killer whales early this week, most likely Tuesday.

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

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