Sick killer whale J-50 could be cared for in Canadian waters

Katy Foster  NOAA Fisheries

Katy Foster NOAA Fisheries

Sheila Thornton, lead killer whale research scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said they'll often see the southern residents with poor body conditions at the start of the summer, but they improve over the season as they feed on chinook salmon.

"A female killer whale ... could probably fast for about four weeks before it gets into a detrimental state", Noren said. It kept sinking, and the mother would raise it to the surface, ' said Ken Balcomb, senior scientist with the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island, which closely tracks individual whales. "But it is it very, very, real", she said.

"The fish would be distributed into the water in front of her", she said.

The orca was last seen off the coast of Washington on Wednesday. "They are very intelligent animals, and the loss of this animal is quite profound".

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

'It is terrible. This is an animal that is a sentient being, ' Deborah Giles, science and research director for the nonprofit Wild Orc said.

Still, most hope she'll drop her dead calf soon just to avoid undue stress.

"I think that's one of the things that's most worrisome to me".

An worldwide team of experts has successfully administered antibiotics to ailing young orca J50 in an emergency effort to save her life, an apparent first for an orca in the wild. The danger here is that carrying and pushing the dead calf to the waters adds weight, and therefore, it entails more effort for Tahlequah, and worse, it adds to the grief. "There was no sign of the groups waiting for her ... she was mostly with her mom as well as her siblings". Researchers will first perform a health assessment on J50 before deciding whether or not to administer any medication. It takes a calf a little under a year and a half to fully develop in the womb, and they nurse for another year.

A medical team was speeding to Race Rocks, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles, as of 1 p.m., to see if the conditions are right to attempt to help her. It could be that the animal is starving, or some other disease process is resulting in them not wanting to eat, Dr Hanson said. That data has documented orcas that declined and then disappeared.

"Even if her family is foraging for and sharing fish with her, J35 can not be getting the. nutrition she needs to regain any body-mass loss that would have naturally occurred during the gestation of her fetus and also additional loss of nutrition during these weeks of mourning", she said. A report is due later this year.

While the other whales were actively foraging for food, Haulena said they couldn't tell if she had been eating.

The fish are being delivered by truck from a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery for loading into a tote on the Lummi Nation's boat.

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