Whales who ventured into Alaska river now headed back to sea

Anchorage Daily NewsOctober 8, 2011 

ANCHORAGE — Three killer whales that worried biologists this week by traveling far up the Nushagak River in Southwest Alaska appear to have left the river's fresh water and headed back to more-familiar salt water, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Though it's possible that spotters on a flight Friday afternoon missed the black-and-white whales, it's likely that they are in the safer waters of Nushagak Bay or Bristol Bay, said Barbara Mahoney, a biologist with NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service.

A pilot Friday flew with U.S. Fish and Wildlife personnel from the river's mouth near Dillingham, past a spot about 30 miles upriver where the whales had been spotted earlier in the week, to the villages of Ekwok, New Stuyahok and Koliganek, Mahoney said. Nobody on the plane saw the whales, she said.

"We're kind of thinking they swam out into the bay and have passed Dillingham," Mahoney said. "We're trying to get people to look for them on their normal routines just to be sure of that."

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