An 18-year-old killer whale was found dead off the coast of British Columbia last week. It had suffered blunt-force trauma to the head.
In a statement by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the initial examination of the 18-year-old male known as J34 indicates it was struck along its back.
Scientists plan to x-ray the skull for signs of fractures. Additional information from blood and tissue analysis could take between two weeks and two months.
Canadian authorities are investigating what caused the blunt force trauma. It may have been struck by a boat or another whale, officials said.
The 22-foot-long whale was in its prime but had shown signs of emaciation, according to the Center for Whale Research. Whale watchers had nicknamed it ‘Doublestuf’ – a reference to its mother, Oreo.
The whale was found floating near the B.C. coast on Tuesday and was towed to a beach north of Vancouver.
As a member of the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population, J34 spent much of the year in the Salish Sea. Southern Residents prey primarily on salmon, while their ocean-going relatives eat seals and other marine mammals.
The whale was the fifth member of J pod to die this year. The pod now stands at 25 members. Combined with K and L pods, only 79 Southern Residents remain.