Springer the orca is a new mom

SEATTLE -- Springer, the orphaned orca that made headlines around Seattle 11 years ago when she was the first orca to be captured and reintroduced to her pod, is now a mom.

The orca, also known as A73, was spotted near Vancouver Island with her baby on July 4, according to the Pacific Whale Watch Association.

Springer was discovered in January 2002 all alone along the ferry lanes off West Seattle, some 250 miles from her home waters of Johnstone Strait in British Columbia.

As many worried the whale was frequently getting too close to ferries and other boats for her own good and the safety of boaters, debate raged as to whether to leave the orca alone, or have her taken to a local aquarium.

Eventually, the decision was made to capture Springer and return her to her home pod in B.C.-- the first time such a reunion was attempted. That summer, Springer was corralled, brought to a seapen for a medical checkup, then loaded on a catamaran and brought back to Johnstone Strait, PWWA said.

The move has worked out well.

"This is what we've been dreaming of since the day we first discovered her off the ferry dock at Fauntleroy," Michael Harris, Executive Director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, said in a statement released to the media. "Every step of the way, this little orphaned orca had enormous obstacles to clear. Would she be healthy enough to rescue? Would she get medical clearance for a trip home? Would she be accepted back into her pod? Was this a crazy idea to even try? And yet, Springer kept surprising us all."