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A dead killer whale (right) and its calf are shown in a lagoon near Zeballos, B.C. in a handout photo.Jared Towers/The Canadian Press

ZEBALLOS, B.C. – An official with Fisheries and Oceans Canada says rescue efforts to get an orphaned orca calf out of a lagoon off Vancouver Island have been hampered by challenging tides.

Paul Cottrell, the pacific marine mammal coordinator with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, says efforts to coax the animal out of the lagoon on Thursday failed, and officials and local First Nations are “monitoring and assessing” the animal from afar this weekend.

Cottrell says the orca calf is very reluctant to leave the lagoon, seemingly trapped by the same sandbar that its mother became stranded on last weekend before drowning in the shallow waters.

He says the orca calf has been photographed with a bird in its mouth, indicating it’s foraging for food on its own, but the timeline to successfully free it is likely short.

Cottrell says they are using drones to observe the animal and assess its “body condition” as they await more favourable tides in the coming days.

The two-year-old calf’s mother died in the lagoon last weekend while local residents tried to free the beached animal, and a necropsy of the 15-year-old Bigg’s killer whale showed she was pregnant with a female fetus when she died.

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