ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Federal biologists are having a tough time spotting a trio of killer whales last seen swimming in a river in Southwest Alaska.
"We received reports yesterday and today that they've been seen in a couple different locations," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesperson Julie Speegle said during a phone interview. "We are trying to get a better idea of exactly where they are and what they are doing."
On Friday, biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service flew over the Nushagak River but couldn't find the whales. A private pilot told federal officials that he spotted the whales swimming downstream.
Federal officials were hopeful after Friday's flight that the whales had made it to saltwater, but Speegle says agencies received reports Saturday that the whales were still in the river.
"We've gotten some reports of them downriver and also still upriver, and that is one of the reasons we are going to go out and do a more thorough survey to identify where they are," Speegle said.
If pilots don't spot the whales, federal officials plan to head out in boats to look for them on Sunday.
The pod consists of two adults and a juvenile, with reports that they have been in the river for three weeks. Biologists worry that the whales may have developed a skin condition, and will starve to death if they don't leave the river soon.