Officials: Bacterial infection killed orca pregnant with calf

SEATTLE (AP) — Canadian officials have released the official cause of death for an orca found Dec. 3 off Vancouver Island near Comox.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada said Tuesday the 19-year-old female known as J32 was pregnant with a nearly full-term female calf that died. A resulting bacterial infection was fatal to the mother.

Examination indicates that the cause of death was a result of in-utero fetal loss with a secondary bacterial involvement, meaning the fetus caused an infection that became systemic, officials said.

J-32 was a member of the southern resident or Puget Sound killer whale population, an endangered species under Canadian and U.S. laws.

Tissue samples from the necropsy will be sent to eight different laboratories across Canada and the United States to help assess threats to the orca population.