ANCHORAGE, Alaska – There's been no sign in two days of a juvenile killer whale last seen swimming in a river in southwest Alaska, a federal fisheries official said late Monday.
The juvenile whale was last spotted swimming downriver in the Nushagak River on Saturday, the same day the carcasses of two other adult orcas, believed to be females, were discovered in the river, NOAA Fisheries spokeswoman Julie Speegle said in a statement.
An aerial survey of the river Monday afternoon failed to find the young whale, she said.
Four veterinarians were scheduled to fly to Dillingham on Tuesday to perform necropsies on the two adult whales. Leading the effort will be a killer whale specialist from SeaWorld in San Diego.
It will likely take two days to complete the necropsies, Speegle said. According to NOAA, female killer whales can weigh up to 16,500 pounds and be 28 feet long. Preliminary results possibly could be ready later this week.
The whales have been swimming in the Nushagak River for about three weeks in what federal biologists said was an unprecedented trek for Alaska killer whales.
The whales swam about 30 miles up the Nushagak River to a spot just downriver from the village of Ekwok, which is about 285 miles southwest of Anchorage.
It had been hoped all three would swim downriver and eventually find their way back to Bristol Bay.