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Rare white killer whale caught on video near Kake, Alaska

Video of a white killer whale is spreading across the internet. The video was taken by Stephanie Hayes.
Video of a white killer whale is spreading across the internet. The video was taken by Stephanie Hayes.
Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 11:12 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s not surprising to see a killer whale in Alaska. What is uncommon is to see an all-white killer whale swimming next to you.

“When I first saw the white killer whale, it was under the water and I couldn’t tell what was creating such a white glow,” said Stephanie Hayes who took the video. “I was wondering, ‘what is that? Something funny is going on there!’ Then, a ghostly-white dorsal fin cleared the water and I gasped, completely shocked and excited at what I was seeing. I was incredibly excited. I knew right away I was witnessing something special.”

The video above was taken near Kake, Alaska in Frederick Sound.

“I have never witnessed a white killer whale before,” Hayes said. “I truly never thought I would see a white killer whale as they are so rare. I did have the opportunity to document Tl’uk — the name of the white killer whale — a second time, closer to Petersburg. I was watching the pod hunt and thinking, ‘Unbelievable! To see a white killer whale not once, but twice! To see Tl’uk participate in hunting behavior! This is beyond incredible!’”

The video was first posted on Hayes’ Instagram and from there it spread across the internet being picked up by a number of media outlets.

“The video has gotten a great amount of positive interaction, it has really started to spread across the internet. Across the world! I’m so glad people from all over the globe are able to see a white killer whale, something that many didn’t know existed,” said Hayes.

Brad Hanson with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says white killer whales are quite rare.

“I am aware of only a few individuals over the past 50 years.”

Hanson pointed out that NOAA had noted the orca was in Puget Sound, an area in Washington, in the spring.

The real question here is how does a white killer whale happen?

In the case of Chimo, a while killer whale that was in captivity in the early 1970s, its skin condition was related to Chédiak–Higashi syndrome,” said Hanson.

Hanson said it would require a biopsy sample to determine if this whale has the genetic condition that causes the white pigmentation, but due to COVID-19, field operations have been curtailed.

Until then, what made this killer whale white will remain a mystery.

If you come across this orca or any other, feel free to upload a photo or video to Alaska’s News Source’s website here.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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