Trapped orcas freed as sea ice shifts, locals say

Rescue operations to free the 13 trapped killer whales are no longer needed after Mother Nature shifted winds and ice around and freed them herself.

MONTREAL — A Canadian village leader says about a dozen killer whales that were trapped under sea ice appear to have reached safety after the floating ice shifted on Hudson Bay.

Tommy Palliser said Thursday that two hunters from Inukjuak village reported the water had opened up around the area where the cornered whales had been bobbing frantically for air.

Locals said the mammals had been trapped around a single, truck-sized breathing hole for at least two days.

RELATED: Orcas trapped in Quebec to get help from Canadian government

Palliser said villagers had been planning to launch a rescue operation Thursday.

But he said the winds seemed to shift overnight, pushing the floating ice further away from shore to open up the water.

Mayor Peter Inukpuk had urged the Canadian government to send an icebreaker. His plea was echoed, perhaps even started, by an Internet outcry

VIDEO: Whales trapped under ice in Canada

Activists had been trying to get Fisheries and Oceans Canada to help with rescuing the whales. Their urging paid off when the Canadian government pledged to send a team of experts to rescue the whales.

The outcry was pushed forward when a video of the orcas thrashing around in the icy waters was posted on Quebec resident Clement Rousseau's Facebook page. It generated an outpouring of concern from animal lovers, who wondered  why the Canadian government hadn't moved faster.

Inukjuak's residents also wanted to help the orcas, but also don't want them to return. Mayor Sarollie Weetalutuk told the Montreal Gazette that whales hunt seals — a big part of the Inuit economy.

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