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Necropsy on killer whale shows animal suffered blunt-force trauma

An orca whale is shown near Burgeo off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador in this Saturday, July 9, 2016 handout photo. A father-daughter fishing trip was interrupted by a brush with danger after the family's boat was encircled by a pack of orcas off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Elizabeth Strickland *MANDATORY CREDIT*

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Officials say a necropsy on an endangered killed whale found floating off the coast of British Columbia showed the animal had blunt-force trauma to its head and neck.

Paul Cottrell, Pacific marine mammal co-ordinator with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, says a vessel strike or other “heavy contact” could potentially have caused the damage, but investigators are waiting on tissue tests and other results to determine exactly what happened.

He says investigators have also taken the animal’s skull to Vancouver, where a CT scan will be done to determine whether there were any fractures as a result of the blunt-force trauma.

The 18-year-old male orca, known as J34, was part of the endangered southern resident killer whale population, which live in the waters off southern British Columbia and Washington state.

At least three other animals in the group have died this year, including a calf, a 23-year-old female called J28 and a male known as L95.

Cottrell says there are now 79 whales left in the population.