Two of the three killer whales that swam far up Southwest Alaska's Nushagak River appear to have died, according to reports from local residents and a spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The two adult killer whales and one juvenile were not seen Friday by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel flying over the river. But Chris Carr, who lives with his family near Portage Creek on the Nushagak, said he and his wife saw the bodies of two whales during a boat trip to Dillingham on Saturday.
"We found one on the beach, dead and bleeding," Carr said.
As they were returning home from getting winter provisions, the Carrs saw another dead killer whale, he said.
"The smell was, pretty obviously, it was a dead whale," Carr said.
It was unclear how far upriver the bodies were found.
Alaska region fisheries spokeswoman Julie Speegle confirmed the whales' deaths late Saturday. Speegle had not heard anything to suggest the deaths were suspicious, she said.
Biologists will travel to the area early in the week to take a look at the dead whales, Speegle said.
"We're sending the team, and they'll conduct a necropsy to try to determine what caused the deaths," she said. "I know we're going to have some boat surveys tomorrow to locate the juvenile and check its condition."
The whales were first spotted making an unusual trip up the river at least three weeks ago.
Reach Casey Grove at email@example.com or 257-4589.
By CASEY GROVE
Anchorage Daily News