Marine Mammals - Sounds Wild
Stranded Killer Whale


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A 20-foot-long killer whale lies stranded on a rocky outcrop off Prince of Wales island in Southeast Alaska in late July of 2021. It's low tide, and although the whale is alive, its skin is drying in the warm sun. Passing boaters radioed federal biologists, who gave them permission to wet it down with buckets of water while the tide came in. At high tide it was able to free itself and swam off.

Killer whales have scars, and uniquely shaped dorsal fins and white patches, and can be identified as individuals. B iologist have a photo-identification catalog of West Coast transient killer whales like this one. About 300 are documented and biologists were able to identify the stranded 13-year old juvenile, known as T146D, from past photos of it and its mother, T146.

Transient killer whales eat marine mammals, and stalk harbor seals in shallow coastal waters. This whale was likely hunting seals and inadvertently ventured too close to shore. Odds are good it will be okay. Over the past 20 years, five killer whales from this population have been stranded like this and documented by biologists. All of them survived and were re-sighted in following years.