Springer’s Story

Springer the orca

Springer’s story is at once remarkable and inspiring. Sadly orphaned as a baby in 2001, she got lost and ended up alone, far away from home near Seattle in Washington State. She was a mystery. A recording of her voice led to a match being found in OrcaLab’s archives. Suddenly it was known that she was a member of the A4 pod of the Northern Resident orca community; then a photo of her as an infant proved her identity.

A great project to return Springer to her family and community was set in motion.

Agencies from Canada and the USA set up a scientific consulting group that concluded Springer should be returned to her home waters and given a chance to rejoin her community. She was captured and held for a month. After being given a clean bill of health, she was transported to a bay on Hanson Island near OrcaLab, held very briefly until making contact with close kin and released. A month later, after many adventures, she was swimming comfortably with her great aunt’s family.

Today, Springer has two babies beside her, a new life, and new hope for her pod. Springer’s plight brought together a diverse group from all sides of the captivity debate, First Nations and the aquaculture industry: Their only purpose was to help return a baby orca to her family and community. She proved that people can solve even the most challenging problems by working together.

For orcas, Springer proved that returning to family and community after separation is possible. Lessons were learned that apply to Corky, Lolita, Morgan, and others, and we should use her story as an example for returning captured whales to the wild.

You can read the detailed story of Springer, as it unfolded, in our blog archive.

Young A73 ‘Springer’ in Dongchong Bay. Namgis’ First Nation.

Adopt Springer with the born free foundation and support OrcaLab

The Born Free Foundation was instrumental in Springer’s release and has been supporting OrcaLab’s efforts ever since. Adopt today and receive regular updates about her life, her babies and her family.

Photo: Jared Towers

Springer today

Springer (A73) is sighted regularly from our lab and up the coast towards Northern British Columbia. She travels with her two children: Spirit (A104) born in 2013 and Storm (A117) born in 2018.

Despite her closest kin being the A24 matriline, we often see Springer alongside the A35s, who are also part of the wider A4 pod. The three of them will also often travel alone.

Springer (and likely her two children) produce a distinct call named the ‘Weeawu’ which was inherited from her mother and used to identify her as an orphan. Other A4 and A5 groups may make this call, but Springer’s is distinct. Whenever we hear this call, we know Springer and her family are nearby.

Springer, Spirit and Storm in 2021. Callyn Holder.

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