Grieving orca still swimming with her dead calf off USA peninsula

An endangered, grieving orca is still carrying her dead calf more than two weeks after the newborn died, CBS affiliate KIRO reports.

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. She was seen alongside the rest of her J Pod group.

Government officials on both the United States and Canada sides of the border have approval to feed the whale a fish that has been prepared with antibiotics in it. Crews are still waiting to conduct tests on the whales, and are being delayed by high winds and poor visibility due to fog. The calf was only seen alive briefly.

Researchers across the field said J35's actions are unprecedented. "I think it's really easy to put human emotions on it, but personally I think it's accurate. It's got to be tragic for these animals to lose these babies, and it's happening at a record pace", senior scientist Ken Balcomb, who works at the Centre for Whale Research, which studies the Southern Resident whale population, told BBC.

Balcomb speculates J35 will drop her baby soon, after carrying it for more than 1,000 miles.

"Maybe this is just her own way of just getting past the loss of another baby". "I am gravely concerned for the health and mental wellbeing of J35".

Milstein says researchers with Fisheries and Ocean Canada also spotted another member of the same pod, the 3-year old whale J50 that is emaciated. They hope to do so before inclement weather rolls in.

Giles said the spotlight on the animals, while itself awful news, has already led to skyrocketing worry about their plight.

They face nutritional stress over a lack of their preferred food source, Chinook salmon, as well as threats from toxic contamination and vessel noise and disturbances that disrupt their ability to communicate and forage.

"We've been saying it for 20 years, the humans who have been studying these animals", Giles said, before noting that now "the animals themselves in the last three weeks, it's nearly like they've taken the torch".

"This is something that has struck hearts all over the world", Inslee said.

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