A grey whale off the coast of Vancouver Island is being monitored by Canadian and U.S. researchers, as it has developed lesions after being tagged last year. To try and prevent systemic infection from developing, the team administered antibiotics to the whale on March 31 and April 1. (Photo from the NOAA Fisheries website)

A grey whale off the coast of Vancouver Island is being monitored by Canadian and U.S. researchers, as it has developed lesions after being tagged last year. To try and prevent systemic infection from developing, the team administered antibiotics to the whale on March 31 and April 1. (Photo from the NOAA Fisheries website)

Tagged grey whale off Vancouver Island given treatment after developing lesions

Canadian and U.S. whale experts administered antibiotics to the animal on March 31, April 1

A grey whale off the coast of Vancouver Island is being monitored by Canadian and U.S. researchers, as it has developed lesions after being tagged last year.

Three grey whales from the Pacific Coast feeding group were satellite tagged off the coast of Washington in September 2020 by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA Fisheries. The tagging is part of a research project on the group of whales, conducted in collaboration between NOAA Fisheries, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Vancouver Aquarium.

The tags are aimed to gather information about whales’ behaviour, breeding areas, habitat, feeding and migratory patterns.

“We photographed this particular whale on Sept. 4 prior to tagging. At the time, we determined that the whale was in good condition and was a good candidate for tagging,” said Sharon Melin program manager for the California Current Ecosystem Program at NOAA Fisheries. “We only undertake tagging when we are confident the risk to the animal is low.”

READ ALSO: Rare bird spotted at Vancouver Island backyard feeder

The groups have been monitoring the whale over several months and collected images of it on Sept. 25, Oct. 4 and Dec. 9, 2020, with no abnormalities. However, on March 16, the whale was reported to have a wound around the tagging site, as well as two more lesions on the opposite side of its body.

A panel of U.S. and Canadian whale experts was formed following the veterinarian’s report, who gathered more information on the whale’s condition, and developed a response plan.

Dr. Martin Haulena, a veterinarian with the Vancouver Aquarium and Marine Mammal Rescue, said the wound near the tagging site appeared to have a radius of about 20 to 30 cm, and the corresponding patches were about the same size. It is still unknown why the lesions on the opposite side of the whale’s body occurred, and whether or not they are related to the tagging site.

To try and prevent anything more serious – such as systemic infection – from developing, the team administered antibiotics to the whale on March 31 and April 1. Antibiotics were administered using a CO2 rifle, which shot darts carrying the medicine into the whale’s body.

Along with the antibiotics, the team also collected a breath sample to further evaluate the whale’s well-being, and sample for any bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens of concern.

“The observed animal was also coughing up a little bit of mucus while moving, suggesting irritation in the airway. Antibiotics will help against any respiratory infection as well,” said Haulena.

The panel will continue to monitor the whale but has agreed the lesions did not pose an imminent danger to the animal’s health.

READ ALSO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

It can take anywhere from four months to a year for a tag to migrate out of a whale’s body. The tags act in a similar way as a splinter would in a human, and are designed to eventually work their way out of the whale’s body as the site continues to heal. Tags are implemented into the dorsal midline of the whale.

“We are hopeful that once this satellite tag is extruded, the tissue around the tagging site will heal. But we will continue to monitor the whale’s condition closely,” states the NOAA website. The satellite tag on this whale is said to be the last one remaining.

This tagging study was conducted to learn about the approximately 250 grey whales who make up the Pacific Coast feeding group. The group is part of the eastern north pacific grey population, which totals about 20,000.

“This group is so unique that they don’t migrate like the larger population does. Most travel to Alaska during the summer for breeding, but this group stops off our coast and spends the summer feeding here,” said Melin.

“We don’t know whether they stay all year round, and satellites help us find more information about how they are using the habitats and where they move. We consider them unique and we want to learn more about them.”


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Whales

Just Posted

Brenda Ware. (RCMP)
Murder charge laid against man in Kootenay National Park homicide

Philip Toner was located in Lake Country on May 11

Michelle St. Pierre, UBCO’s 2021 graduate student researcher of the year, is hoping to change the discussion surrounding the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs. (UBCO photo)
UBCO researcher examining therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs

Michelle St. Pierre has been researching the use of psychedelics since 2015

The community is rallying around Phil Hotzon who needs a new electric tricycle. (Contributed)
Tricycle for Phil: Support pours in for Kelowna man with traumatic brain injury

Phil Hotzon lost his electric tricycle after falling into Mill Creek, fundraiser aims to replace it

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Dogs can understand some English

Your morning start for Wednesday, May 12, 2021

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

Children walk back to their classroom while wearing masks and physical distancing at St. Barnabas Catholic School in Scarborough, Ont., in October, 2020. A group of B.C. teachers has issued an open letter calling for the relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions for children in B.C. schools. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
Group of B.C. teachers calls for easing of pandemic measures for students

Teacher group says ‘response to COVID is out of balance to the cost our youth are paying’

Adam Hamdan has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorist charges given temporary residence in Canada

Adam Hamdan had been facing deportation to Jordan, where he holds citizenship through his Palestinian parents

Lumber is shown in the back of a van in this recent image provided by the Saskatoon Police Service. The skyrocketing prices for lumber is fuelling a trend that has authorities across the country warning builders to keep their guard up. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Saskatoon Police Service-Const. Derek Chesney *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘It is a gold mine:’ Builders warned of rising lumber thefts across Canada

Many North American mills curtailed production temporarily earlier in 2020 because of COVID lockdowns

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP officers helped return Chocnut, a stolen Pomeranian, to his family on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (RCMP photo)
Vernon police track down dog thief, return Pomeranian to owners

‘People often ask what the best part of being a police officer is. Well, this is it, helping people’

The area around the Christie Mountain wildfire that was restricted to the public is no longer restricted effective at 12 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (BC Wildfire photo)
The area around where the Christie Mountain wildfire took place is officially restricted to the public effective May 12. (BC Wildfire photo)
Christie Mountain wildlife area near Penticton closed to public

The area was damaged in 2020 by the Christie Mountain wildfire

Most Read