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20 years ago, a little northern resident killer whale calf named Springer (A73) was found orphaned in Puget Sound. 500 kilometres from home, she was starving, sick, and completely alone. 

A diverse group of Canadian and U.S. conservation groups quickly mobilized and came to her rescue. Thanks to their extraordinary efforts, she was rehabilitated and returned to her home in Johnstone Strait where she was reunited with her family. In honour of her successful rescue – the first of its kind in the world – July 14th is now marked Celebrate Springer Day! We’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the rescue by launching our first ever Ocean Wise WhaleBlitz and we invite you to join!

Springer (A73) is a young killer whale that was found 500 km from home, orphaned, starving and sick.  Here she is shortly after she was discovered swimming alone in Puget Sound.

Since her rescue in 2002, researchers and citizen scientists along the coast have continued to monitor Springer and her family, and she appears to be healthy and thriving. She’s had two calves – Spirit (A104) born in 2019 and Storm (A116) born in 2017 – over the years and continues to travel the coast with her northern resident pod.  In the summer of 2021, the Ocean Wise Whales team encountered Springer and her offspring and were thrilled to discover that Springer was pregnant with her third calf!

Springer and her calves. Image captured under DFO Marine Mammal License MML-18

From July 22nd to 24th, the 2002 rescue team, researchers, and community members involved in monitoring Springer’s progress will gather in Telegraph Cove to celebrate her successful rescue.  Meanwhile, the Ocean Wise Research team is gearing up for another field season and hopes to encounter Springer and her offspring with a healthy newborn calf in tow!

The Rescue Team in 2002 after Springer was successfully reunited with her family.

We welcome everyone to join us in celebrating Springer!  Here are the many ways that you can get involved.

Join a WhaleBlitz Event in your Community!

Community members played an integral role in Springer’s rescue and continue to be an essential part of the ongoing cetacean (whale, dolphin, and porpoise) research that is conducted in BC and Washington State.  From July 14th-17th, community and conservation groups are partnering with Ocean Wise to host our first annual WhaleBlitz in areas throughout the Salish Sea.  WhaleBlitz events are a fun way to connect with local communities while collecting important information on species distributions and habitat use through our WhaleReport app. 

Learn more at WhaleBlitz – Ocean Wise

Visit the WhaleTrail

Donna Sandstrom was involved in Springer’s rescue and was inspired by her story to establish the Whale Trail,a series of sites to view marine mammals from shore along the Pacific Coast.  The Whale Trail was created to inspire appreciation and stewardship of orcas, other marine mammals, and the marine environment.  Ocean Wise leads the expansion of the Whale Trail in BC, and there are currently over 40 sites established throughout the BC Coast.  Visit a Whale Trail location in your community this weekend, and make sure to report any whale sightings on the WhaleReport app!  Visit the Whale Trail to learn more.

The Whale Trail is a series of sites to view marine mammals from shore along the Pacific Coast.  Many sites are marked with interpretive signage that highlight local marine mammal species that can be seen from that specific location.

Dive into the Story of Springer

Read Orca Rescue! The True Story of an Orphaned Whale Named Springer, by Donna Sandstrom.  Donna gives a fascinating up-close-and-personal depiction of the rescue mission, with new behind-the-scenes details.  She uses an innovative mix of narrative storytelling interspersed with spreads of factual information about orcas and the history of their relationship with humans. 

Springer in 2011

Posted July 12, 2022 by Nic Schulz

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