Necropsy Results: Southern Resident Killer Whale J32

An approximately 19 year old pregnant female killer whale, identified as J32, was found deceased near Comox, B.C. on December 3rd, 2014. J-32 was a Southern Resident killer whale, a population listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act in Canada. A necropsy was performed on Saturday December 6th, 2014, to determine the cause of the animal’s death.

Necropsy results confirm that J32 was pregnant with a near full-term female calf. The examination indicates that the cause of death was a result of in utero fetal loss with secondary bacterial involvement (endometritis), and eventually maternal septicemia; meaning the fetus caused an infection that became systemic, and ultimately fatal to J32.

The results of J32’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 life cycles.

Tissue samples from the necropsy will be sent to eight different reference laboratories across Canada and the United States for further investigations, and a final report will be posted on the DFO website in the spring of 2015.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada would like to acknowledge the First Nations community for their ceremonial offering before the necropsy on the deceased killer whale, and acknowledge the efforts and collaboration from the BC Ministry of Agriculture (and in particular, Dr. Stephen Raverty, Veterinary Pathologist who performed the necropsy exam), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Whale Museum in Friday Harbour, Washington, the Vancouver Aquarium, and the University of British Columbia.