Conservation Wildlife Management

Video: Alaska Fishermen Rescue Beached Killer Whale

One of the biggest misconceptions about outdoorsmen and women is that they don’t care about wildlife. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Hunters and anglers love wildlife. They support the land and the waters with their passion — and their money. They are animal lovers in the truest sense of the term.

A beautiful example of this came on September 30 when three Alaskan fishermen spent nearly four hours doing all that they could to free a stranded killer whale that had beached itself on rocks.

Ketchikan, Alaskan native Jason Vonick was prepping for the beginning of shrimping season with partners Nick Segal and John Oakes when the men saw a pod of orcas hunting seals on rocks in Klakas Inlet. When the 42-year-old Vonick noticed a female orca stranded on a rock outcropping he and his friends anchored their fishing vessel and took to the rocks in their 15-foot boat.

“We realized that she was definitely stuck,” Vonick told Good Morning America of the 16-foot orca. “For the next four hours we just stayed with her and kept her calm and put water over her to keep her cool.”

Vonick said the orca never fought the men and actually seemed to know that they were there to help. “She just sat there docile and calm the whole time and let us do what we needed to do. If we stopped petting her, she’d cry some more.”

Mr. Vonick said the low tide prevented the whale from leaving the rocks. All they could do was stay with the whale until the tide returned. Unfortunately the whale became weaker with each passing moment. Soon she had trouble holding her head above water. “At that point we stuck the oars under her pectoral fins and just tried to pry her off the rock,” he said. “When we realized we could actually move her, we just grunted and groaned and used a lot of force and got her free.”

The whale righted itself and returned to her pod less than 10 minutes after being set free.

Was the group ever worried about helping a 16-foot killing machine?

“We felt a little nervous about it because we weren’t sure they knew we were trying to help,” Vonick said. “We were especially nervous the bigger male whale would make a move because he was within five feet of us, but they just stayed right there and just watched the whole time.”