On Dec. 4, a lone orca washed up on shore in Georgia Strait. Immediately conflicting rumors began to circulate, ranging from the orca being a male to being a female that possibly died while birthing a calf. After photos were sent to Ken Balcomb for the Center for Whale Research and Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the orca was successfully identified as 18-year-old J32 Rhapsody.
While the death of any orca isn't good news, this is devastating. This endangered family of orcas is now at an all time low of 77 members. Many people had been hopeful that J32 might be getting ready to have her first calf as she appeared to be in the late stages of pregnancy this past summer. Some speculate that it may have contributed to her death.
Thanks to a grant from the Milgard Foundation, Ken Balcomb will be able to attend and assist in the necropsy which will take place this Saturday. It will tell us if J32 was in fact pregnant and may also lead researchers to determine the cause of her death. If she was in fact pregnant and gave birth to a live calf, it is unlikely that it will survive for long without its mother.