Published: Fri, August 10, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

Grieving orca still swimming with her dead calf off United States peninsula

Michael Milstein, a spokesman with NOAA Fisheries, told KIRO that researchers with Fisheries and Ocean Canada also spotted another member of the same pod on Wednesday.

Vancouver Aquarium confirmed in a separate post that its head veterinarian, Dr. Martin Haulena, was with the response teams Thursday.

A dose of antibiotics was also administered through a dart, he said.

The U.S. and Canada have no plans to remove J50 from her pod in order to feed or medicate her, as that would likely cause too much stress to J50 and her pod.

Sheila Thornton, lead killer whale research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said they are anxious that the time and energy she spends carrying the body could take away from foraging or feeding.

Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans stated on Twitter that it was "proud to take part in this collaborative effort to help ailing" J50.

The young orca J50 was spotted off British Columbia and teams will do a health assessment if conditions in the waters between the USA and Canada allow, said Michael Milstein, a spokesman with NOAA Fisheries.

"We are working closely with NOAA and are considering every possible option available to us to save this whale".

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J-50's pod was found Thursday in Canadian waters, then followed into USA waters near San Juan Island, according to NOAA.

"It's not uncommon for [the whales] to split their time between the outer coast and inland waters", he said.

"If they're travelling, it's challenging", said Hanson. "So we've been standing by here, hoping that the southern residents will come back in".

Researchers take breath samples of the orca known as J50 on July 21, 2018. The scientists said they have no plans to intervene; removing the dead calf would have serious repercussions to the group.

"The world is watching, and the world is not going to let status quo continue", she said.

Depending on the conditions, the team could gather samples and treat J50 with antibiotics on the same day, he said. This September 2015 photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows a aerial view of adult female Southern Resident killer whale (J16) swims with her calf (J50).

J-50 is part of a family group known as J-pod, which also includes the mother orca who has gained global attention for carrying her dead newborn calf for more than two weeks, in an apparent display of mourning.

"I certainly think the length of the situation is unprecedented", Thornton said. "But there are many species who do undertake this sort of behaviour, where, if a young has failed to survive, they will carry the carcass".

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