Two whales dead after swimming up river in Alaska


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Two of the three killer whales that strangely swam deep up the Nushagak River in Alaska are dead, federal fisheries officials have confirmed, and the search is on for the third whale that had accompanied them.

Biologists were conducting an aerial survey Monday in an effort to find the whale, which was spotted down-river over the weekend in the relatively safer saltwater tidal area of the river, where orcas commonly venture in the fall.


The three orcas have been swimming in the freshwater, uncharacteristically, for the past three weeks and at one point ranged 30 miles upstream from the sea.

Biologists believe the two dead whales -- one found floating Saturday near Portage Creek, another found a few miles downstream on the bank -- succumbed to the stress of their protracted stay outside salt water. An interagency team of veterinarians will perform a necropsy early this week to determine exactly what killed the whales and try to answer the question of what drove them to swim so far up-river.


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-- Kim Murphy in Seattle