Thursday, April 12, 2012

Did offshore war games kill endangered West Coast orca?

VANCOUVER — Marine officials hope an analysis of tissue samples in coming days by labs in the U.S. and Canada will solve the mystery of why a bloodied and battered young female killer whale washed up on a beach in Washington State in February.

For weeks there has been speculation that naval military exercises in either Canadian or U.S. waters may have been responsible for the endangered whale's death, but officials are urging the public not to jump to conclusions.

"In an investigation, you don't try to eliminate anything or focus on anything too early. Let the evidence lead you," said Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Its law enforcement branch launched an investigation about three weeks ago.

The carcass of the three-year-old orca, known among marine scientists as L112, washed up on the shores of Long Beach, along Washington's southern coast, on Feb. 11. It showed obvious signs of trauma.

But whether the whale suffered those injuries before or after it died is still under investigation, Gorman said.

Some of the dead whale's tissue has been sent to Oregon State University for analysis and investigators hope to begin getting results of that analysis in two or three weeks, he said.

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