Grieving orca still swimming with her dead calf off U.S. peninsula

Mindy Sparks
August 10, 2018

In addition to the breath test, they will look for visual clues, such as lesions on the J50's skin, body condition, how she moves and surfaces.

A grieving orca whose calf died last month just minutes after it was born was seen this week still carrying the tiny whale's body around the Pacific Northwest, more than 17 days later.

"We have obvious concerns about the displacement of her behaviour away from foraging and feeding towards carrying her calf, and concerns over the length of time this behaviour continues", said Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) killer whale researcher Sheila Thornton.

Tahlequah, referred to by scientists as J35, was spotted Wednesday by Canadian scientists pushing the body of her calf off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula.

The calf died July 24 and the image of the mother whale clinging to the dead calf has struck an emotional chord worldwide.

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.

Drone video from the Center for Whale Research and the University of Exeter taken off Pile Point, on the west side of San Juan Island.


They spotted J35 while searching for another of the remaining 75 southern resident killer whales, labelled an endangered species in both Canada and the United States.

"Obviously the connection they've formed with this calf is substantial and it's something that we do have to take into account", he said.

Veterinarians who are racing out to try to assess J50, the sick whale, will decide whether to give her antibiotics using either a dart injector or a long pole syringe.

This is likely due to a sharp decline in the killer whales' main food source - the Chinook salmon - as well as contamination of the waters that they live in. The whale was spotted on Wednesday afternoon with the J-pod of orcas.

"This is a novel undertaking", Hanson said.

The last time scientists rescued a killer whale in the region was in 2002 when a northern resident killer whale known as Springer was found swimming alone in Puget Sound.

But the carcass, which Tahlequah has now carried for around 1,000 miles, is starting to deteriorate, and Giles said her mourning may soon come to an end. She returned to her family of whales in Canada later that year and in 2013 was seen with her new calf.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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