A young orca that stranded on a remote stretch of coast in British Columbia in Canada has made a lucky return back out to sea thanks to volunteers who kept watch over the animal for eight hours until it could swim safely away.


The young female stranded on sharp, barnacle-encrusted rocks after a misjudged manoeuvre while hunting for seals in the area with the rest of her pod.

When volunteers and conservation groups, including the WWF, arrived on the scene, it became clear that moving the orca from her rocky spot would cause too much injury. The only viable option was to keep the animal wet and protect her sensitive skin from the sun until the tide rose high enough to allow her to swim free. 


Volunteers covered the orca with wet blankets and kept her cool with bucketfuls of sea water. "It was a team effort, and fortunately on some level this transient orca understood that we were trying to help," explains a Facebook update from ForWhales.org, a group also involved in the rescue effort. 

"Transient" orcas like this one differ from their cousins – the salmon-eating "resident" orcas – in that they live in much smaller groups usually made up of females and their offspring, hunting marine mammals like seals and porpoises. Rather than inhabiting the inland waters of Washington and British Columbia full-time like the resident orcas, transients are always on the move, cruising along the coast from Alaska and British Columbia as far south as southern California, according to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

After eight hours of rescue efforts, the stranded orca was finally able to move off the rocks when the water rose again with the next high tide. "She cried often, which tore at our hearts, but as the tide came up there were many cheers as this whale was finally free," says For Whales in its update.

Top header image: jellybeanz, Flickr