Necropsy results: Southern Resident Killer Whale J34

An approximately 18 year old male killer whale, identified as J34 was found dead near Sechelt, BC on December 20th, 2016. J34 was a Southern Resident killer whale, a population listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act in Canada. A necropsy was performed to determine the cause of the animal’s death.

The examination indicated that the animal had injuries consistent with blunt trauma to the dorsal side, and a hematoma indicating that it was alive at the time of injury and would have survived the initial trauma for a period of time prior to death. Based on qualitative assessment, the animal was considered in moderate to good body condition and there were no apparent lesions or abnormalities which may have predisposed this animal to injury. Representative tissues have been collected for additional testing.

We would like to acknowledge the Sechelt First Nation, whose efforts and collaboration were central to locating the animal and facilitating a successful necropsy. We would also like to thank the BC Ministry of Agriculture (and in particular, Dr. Stephen Raverty, Veterinary Pathologist who performed the necropsy exam), Vancouver Aquarium staff, as well as numerous dedicated DFO staff and biologists.

The results of J34’s necropsy will feed into a growing body of knowledge to assist in assessing the threats to Southern Resident killer whales from a population health perspective. This data allows us to look at trends, pathogens, or other indicators that may affect their survival.