Canada: Orphaned Springer may have new mom

26th Jul 2002 Story:www.canada.com

Springer, the orphaned baby killer whale, may have found a new mom.

The two-year-old orca appears to have struck up a relationship with a 16-year-old female, called A-51.

It appears A-51 has taken a motherly interest in Springer. It's too early to know if the match will last but signs are hopeful.

"It's not just that A-73 has latched on to a group of whales. It is clear that A-51 is looking out for her," says Vancouver Aquarium's senior marine mammal scientist Lance Barrett-Lennard.

A-51 kept Springer with the pod despite her efforts to reach his boat, Barrett-Lennard said Wednesday.

Researchers are hoping Springer will join a pod of northern resident killer whales to live out her days in the waters off B.C.

Springer grabbed world-wide attention in recent weeks after being captured in Puget Sound, where she had strayed after her mother died.

While in Puget Sound, Springer, who would normally belong to a tight social group, became increasingly attached to boats.

A joint Canadian-U.S. rescue project saw Springer nursed back to health and released into her home waters on July 14. Since her release she has been monitored to see if she will rejoin a pod and if other whales will accept her.

Springer and A-51 were seen together on July 18 and were believed to be heading north with other whales. Word came this week that whales were heading south from the waters off Port Hardy and Barrett-Lennard finally spotted the A5 pod, which includes A-51 at 8 p.m. near Cracroft Point, east of Telegraph Cove.

When he saw Springer, "She was acting just like a calf with A-51." Springer was bumping into the older whale and rubbing up against her. They were also with A-61, the eight-year-old brother of A-51, and another male, A-60.

For Springer to stay with the pod for that length of time, she would have had to be associated with another whale, Barrett-Lennard said.