Orca calf stranded in British Columbia lagoon for more than a month swims out on her own

An orca calf that spent over a month stranded in a remote lagoon on Vancouver Island off the west coast of Canada swam out of the lagoon on her own early Friday morning, according to the Ehattesaht First Nation.

The seemingly trapped mammal attracted media attention, concern from local agencies and prompted several aborted rescue attempts.

On Friday, rescuers’ hopes the calf would leave on her own were finally realized. After an evening of feeding the calf, a small crew with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ehattesaht First Nation watched her breach the water and play before swimming under a bridge and out through an inlet during high tide at 2:30 a.m., according to a news release from the Ehattesaht First Nation.

The young orca, which locals named “Little Brave Hunter” or “Kʷiisaḥiʔis” in the Ehattesaht First Nation language, became stranded in the Zeballos lagoon when traveling with her pregnant mother. The mother orca became trapped on a sandbar in the lagoon’s shallow waters and died on March 23.

After the calf swam out of the inlet, the team later found her in Espinosa Inlet and followed her from a distance as she moved toward Esperanza Inlet proper, the release said. Rescue teams will encourage her to swim out toward the open ocean, according to the release.

Rescuers hope the calf’s family will now be able to hear her calls, so she can be reunited with her pod “with as little human interaction as possible,” the release said.

“We are now in a new phase and while the Team is ecstatic there will be increased patrols and protective measures taken to ensure that she has no contact with boats or people,” the Ehattesaht First Nation said.

CNN has reached out to Fisheries and Oceans Canada for additional information.

Orcas – also known as killer whales – are found in all the world’s oceans, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They are highly social, living in family pods of up to 20 or more whales. Calves typically stay with their mothers for the first two years of life, according to the agency.

In the news release, the Ehattesaht First Nation emphasized the strong ties between “the spirit world, the animal world, and the people who have remained on the land and waters for all time.”

“Events like these have a deeper meaning and the timing of her departure will be thought about, talked about and felt for generations to come,” reads the release.

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