Necropsy Results: Southern Resident Killer Whale L95

A 20 year old male killer whale, identified as L95 was found dead near Esperanza Inlet, B.C. on March 30th, 2016. L95 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 animal had been tagged by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) using a satellite-linked limpet-style tag approximately 5 weeks prior to death. The necropsy report for L95 is now complete, and has been reviewed by an independent panel of scientists that gather to review unusual whale deaths. They support Dr. Raverty’s conclusions that a fungal infection entered the animals bloodstream at the tagging site, and that this fungal infection contributed to the animals death. There were several factors in this case that predisposed this whale to a fungal infection at the tagging site, including indications that the animal may have had a compromised immune system.

Fisheries and Oceans’ Animal Care Committee will review the findings and consider this information for future tagging requests. DFO has licenced the use of these tags on killer whales in the eastern Arctic in the past, although there are no current licences.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada would like to acknowledge the efforts and collaboration from the BC Ministry of Agriculture (and in particular, Dr. Stephen Raverty, Veterinary Pathologist who performed the necropsy exam), not to mention numerous dedicated DFO staff and biologists.

The results of L95’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.

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