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PROWLS president reflects on plan for orca rescue


Some people have questioned whether Powell River Orphaned Wildlife Society (PROWLS) has responded to calls for all the species on its calendar, given that April 2021 featured an orca.

At around 2:20 am on a morning in mid-July, PROWLS president Merrilee Prior received a phone call from a distraught woman: “I don’t know if you can help, but the RCMP said to try you. There is a beached orca in front of my house and I can’t bear to listen to it!”

Merrilee asked for the caller’s location, which was on Marine Avenue between Penticton and Quesnel streets. The caller had tried everyone except Susan MacKay of Wild Ocean Whale Society (WOWS), with no luck. Telling her she would do her best, Merrilee started making calls, without success, then texted photographer Michelle Pennell, who works closely with WOWS. Michelle called back immediately, and a plan was set in motion.

It was a dark night with no moon, so not safe for volunteers to form a bucket brigade to keep the orca wet. Michelle’s husband checked tide tables, lists were drawn up and more phone calls were made while waiting for first light.

Michelle and Barry set out as soon as they could see the rocks, and walked the entire beach, all the way to the Beach Gardens. The orca was gone!

When PROWLS finally contacted Susan, she said the orca family would have been close by throughout, and would have worked to get the stranded orca back safely in the water. PROWLS was spared the heartbreak of failing.

PROWLS is now prepared for the next call, whether orca or whale, and that is why there is an orca on our calendar.