Three southern resident orcas confirmed dead

Three southern resident orcas confirmed dead

Three southern resident orcas confirmed dead

The already diminished population of B.C.'s endangered southern resident killer whales (SRKW) has taken another hit.

Three Southern Resident killer whales are presumed dead, according to the Center for Whale Research, bringing the total number of orcas in the "extremely endangered" population down to 73. That's one killer whale from each pod of the resident orcas.

The center said Tuesday that an orca from each pod is being declared dead after long absences from Washington waters.

The same population of whales made headlines past year, when a mother orca named Tahlequah carried her deceased baby for more than two weeks in a remarkable display of grief.

K25, the other orca that the centre was concerned about, is now also presumed dead.

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The whales were part of an extremely endangered orca population that historically frequented the Salish Sea nearly daily in summer months.

"We reported J17 was not in good body condition last winter, perhaps from stress", the Center for Whale Research said in a release. The health of J17, a 42-year-old female, had been in rapid decline.

And 29-year-old male, L84, has been missing all summer in encounters conducted by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans colleagues along the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The deaths are a blow to hopes that had grown in the wake of two calves being born to the SRKWs this year.

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