Orca Mother Grieves Dead Calf More Than Two Weeks and Counting

An adult female Southern Resident killer whale with her calf in Pacific Northwest waters

The 3 1/2-year-old orca is thin, in poor body condition and may have an infection.

A mother orca was spotted today still carrying her dead calf for the 16th straight day after the infant was born off the Canada coast near Victoria, British Columbia and died shortly afterwards. Moreover, she expressed her worry over the nutrition of the orca.

The rescue team has approval in both USA and Canadian waters to give J50 medication, but there is no such plan for another member of the population of southern resident killer whales that has scientists anxious.

The female orca - known as J35 - has been clinging to her calf since it died on July 24, an image of grief that has struck an emotional chord worldwide.

The team led by the USA agency lacks a permit to feed the whale, which is emaciated and possibly suffering an infection, in Canadian waters, though it had one for medical treatment.

Teams of whale experts do not have any immediate plans to intervene to help a mother orca that has been pushing the body of her dead calf for more than two weeks.

Fearing that J50's fate will be the same if they don't intervene, scientists are considering multiple strategies created to save the starving whale, including feeding her live salmon dosed with medication at sea.

The tweet says the next step is to decide if trial feeding of J50 should proceed, although it says that will depend on the location of the pod, as well as water and weather conditions.

Michael Milstein with NOAA Fisheries says experts plan to do a health assessment of the young whale if conditions allow.

A veterinarian examined the orca.

"She was breathing very well; her respiratory rate was normal", he said.

The idea of removing the calf from her mother is "not on the table", according to Brad Hanson, a wildlife biologist with NOAA.

If you'd like to be a part of the solution to saving these lovely whales, one easy step you can take is to reduce or completely do away with your personal consumption of seafood.

USA and Canadian scientists said they were concerned about the mother's condition and would keep monitoring her but have no plans to help her or remove the calf. "It's very hard to say, but certainly they're very intelligent animals and the loss of this animal is quite profound for both the (killer whales) and I think for everyone who witnesses this".

A photo of a response team pole as members try to take a breath sample and give antibiotics to southern resident killer whale J50 on Thursday.

He said a different needle could have been used to allow it to deliver the entire dose, but he didn't want the animal to have the needle remain with her for a few days or longer before it fell off.

The group will prioritize short-term and long-term actions, many of which are certain to focus on recovering the prized salmon that the fish-eating whales like to eat.

The last time scientists rescued a killer whale in the region was in 2002, when they rehabilitated an orca known as Springer who was found alone.

It was hearing initial recommendations focused on three main threats to the orcas: lack of food, toxic contamination and boat noise and disturbance. It returned to its family of whales in Canada later that year and in 2013 was seen with its new calf.

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