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Traumatic injury cited as probable cause in death of 3-year-old orca
The cause of death of a 3-year-old female killer whale that washed up on the shore Saturday just north of Long Beach, Wash., has yet to be determined.
The killer whale has been identified, however, as L112, known also as Victoria, a member of the southern Resident killer whales that make their seasonal home in waterways of the San Juan Islands. Its body reportedly shows signs of traumatic injuries.
According to Cascadia Research, a Washington-based marine mammal research and educational organization, photographs of the killer whale's dorsal fin and saddle patch match those of known killer whales cataloged by biologists of the federal Fisheries service and the Center for Whale Research, a San Juan-based research group that has kept an annual census of the southern Residents for more than three decades.
Born in early 2009, L112 is a calf of L-86, and it was traveling in the company of other members of the southern Residents when it was first photographed by Center biologists off the shore of Victoria, B.C. L112 was one of five southern Resident calves born that year. It was just over 12 feet in length at the time of its death.
A necropsy was conducted Feb. 12, the day after the body of L-112 was discovered. Results are expected in the next several weeks, or perhaps months, according to National Marine Fisheries Service.
Listed as endangered in the U.S. in 2005, the southern residents consist of three tightly knit clans, known as J, K and L pods. They were declared endangered in the wake of the population's 20 percent decline in the mid 1990s. As of 2010, the population totaled 87 animals, according to the Center. The southern Residents are designated as endangered by Washington state and in Canada as well.