Baby Orca Marooned in Lagoon Finds Own Way to Freedom

May 14, 2024

We all need help now and then. But sometimes the one most capable of saving us can be found in a mirror. 

Consider Brave Little Hunter. That’s the name given by a First Nations tribe in Canada to a baby orca. She'd become trapped in a lagoon for over a month. She could have died if she’d lingered there longer. She'd been stuck in Esperanza Inlet for nearly five weeks. Then, the little killer whale finally figured out how to swim out of the Vancouver Island, British Columbia, waterway on her own.

That happened April 26. This was 34 days before the orca became marooned behind a daunting sandbar. It separated the inlet from the open sea. Declining tides had rendered the entrance passable for just 15 to 20 minutes a day. And despite all sorts of coaxing from marine biologists, wildlife officials, veterinarians, drone operators, and Ehattesaht First Nation members, Brave Little Hunter couldn’t find her way out. 

The little orca had become trapped in the lagoon on March 23 with her pregnant mother. Her mother had beached on a gravel bed and died along with the calf she carried. Brave Little Hunter's would-be rescuers fed her. They also kept tabs on her health, which looked good. But her chances of surviving there long-term were grim, they said.   

Brave Little Hunter's rescuers used killer whale sounds and canoeists to try and entice her to open water. They even weighed one dangerous option: lifting her out by helicopter. In the end, Brave Little Hunter swam to freedom in the middle of the night.   

“It was just a great feeling, knowing that we’ve given her a big chance,” marine biologist Paul Cottrell told The Washington Post,  “and now it’s up to her.”     

Reflect: How do humans benefit from working to save animals? 

GIF of orca courtesy @natgeochannel on GIPHY.

What does the opening paragraph of the article emphasize? (Common Core RI.5.5; RI.6.5)
a. the main lesson that the story will teach readers
b. the concern of local residents for Brave Little Hunter
c. the reasons why local residents named an orca Brave Little Hunter
d. the ways residents tried to save Brave Little Hunter
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