SEATTLE -

An expert panel says a dart tag deployed on an endangered Puget Sound orca by federal biologists was the source of a fungal infection that contributed to its death.
   
NOAA Fisheries on Wednesday released the findings into the death of a 20-year-old whale named L95 found dead off Vancouver Island in March. Five weeks before it died, researchers had fired a satellite-linked transmitter into the whale's dorsal fin.
   
Experts concluded that a fungal infection entered the animal's bloodstream at wound and that this fungal infection contributed to the whale's death.
   
NOAA scientists told reporters that extenuating factors may have predisposed the whale to a fungal infection, including "human error" from not sterilizing the dart tag after it had fallen into the water. The tag also hit the whale near significant blood vessels and the whale's health may have been compromised at the time it was tagged in February.