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

The City of Campbell River will purchase an automated external defibrillator (AED) for the Overdose Prevention Site after a letter from a local paramedic pointed out it doesn’t have one. Black Press File Photo
City of Campbell River to buy defibrillator for downtown Overdose Prevention Site

Local paramedic pens letter asking for city’s assistance after trying other avenues to acquire AED

Campbell River RCMP. RCMP photo
Two knife incidents reported on same day in Campbell River

Stabbing and knife fight both occured on May 13

Cash, drugs and weapons were seized by the Street Crimes Unit on May 12. Photo supplied by Campbell River RCMP
Police recover cash, drugs and weapons after arrest

18-year-old arrested in Willow Point Park for drug trafficking

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Most Read