Killer whale lookalike sparks stranding outcry


Photo by Maureen Buckley

By Meg Olson

A fancifully decorated buoy in Boundary Bay may have unleashed a cascade of reports of a stranded whale at Maple Beach, many with some creative spin.

Victoria Souze with the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network said their hotline received several phone calls on the afternoon of February 16 reporting a stranded whale. “I received a call from someone on my home phone that said it was a killer whale and that the women from the bank were pouring water on it,” Souze said.

Alerting her counterparts in Canada, Souze immediately dispatched recently trained volunteers in Point Roberts who were at the beach in three minutes. “No sign of anything,” Souze said.

Meanwhile the Orca Network was also receiving reports of a stranded killer whale, and was told the Point Roberts fire department had responded.

Assistant chief John Shields said they did not respond, and had not received calls regarding a stranding. “We don’t hose down whales, unless maybe they’re on fire,” he joked. “As far as I know there’s no whale, and we were certainly not putting water on it.”

Peter Hamilton of Lifeforce Foundation, currently located on Vancouver Island, also received reports of the stranding and the fire department’s involvement, but with information that the animal “apparently floated away.”

Bayview Drive resident Maureen Buckley said she and her neighbors received reports of the stranding but never saw a stranded whale. She did point out, however, that just north of the border someone has attached a dorsal fin replica to a buoy.

Souze said the explosion of different reports had led to the mobilization of significant resources. “It went just like wildfire through that community,” she said. “The Coast Guard helicopter was out looking for it. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was on standby with their boat, ready to take us up. Our team was on standby. The Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network and Orca Network were on standby. That’s a lot of manpower.”

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