Experts Sleuth Out What Killed Puget Sound Orca

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But federal officials studying wind, currents and tides during the two weeks before the orca washed ashore recently concluded the animal could not have been near British Columbia during that time.

"We are very confident that this animal died near the Columbia River or south of Long Beach and drifted north," Gorman said Tuesday. "It's highly unlikely that it died off the coast of B.C. and drifted south."

If the whale was on the coast, it's unlikely that she would have been near the Ottawa's sonar activity so far away, said Jason Wood, research associate at The Whale Museum at Friday Harbor, who has studied the effect of human sound on mammals. "But I don't know if there were other naval ships doing other things on the outer coast," he added.

Tissue samples collected from the whale are currently being analyzed under a microscope. Once that is done, the team of experts will have to figure out how to piece together all the evidence to determine what killed the orca, Gaydos said.

"We may never know," said Kristin Wilkinson, who works with NOAA and is coordinating the examination. "All we can do is to try to do all of our homework to see what potentially could have happened."

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