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KILLER WHALE LUNA KILLED

Luna, the orphaned L-pod whale, died after being struck March 10 by a tugboat propeller near Conception Point in Nootka Sound.

Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans reported that a killer whale was struck and killed about 9:30 a.m. today by the propeller of a 104-foot tugboat which had pulled into Nootka Sound to avoid bad weather on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The tugboat was idling at the time of the collision, according to Lara Sloan, spokeswoman for Department of Fisheries and Oceans. DFO marine biologist John Ford said Luna was playing in front of the tug and got sucked through the prop.

"The skipper of the tugboat called the (Canadian) Coast Guard right away," Sloan said. "He was quite distraught about what happened."

Luna was a member of L pod, one of three orca pods that frequent the Straits and Puget Sound. Those pods, known as the Southern residents, were declared endangered this year by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. They are also considered endangered by the Canadian government and Washington state.

The solitary killer whale, which turned 6 in September, separated from his family and surfaced on the west coast of Vancouver Island five years ago.

The Mowachaht-Muchalaht believe Luna embodied the spirit of their dead chief, Ambrose Maquinna, who had said he would return as a killer whale, The Associated Press reported.

Three days after Maquinna's death in 2001, the whale showed up in the sound.

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