Orca back to feeding, frolicking after carrying dead calf for 17 days

Tahlequah is no longer carrying her dead calf and appears to be vigorous and healthy as she swims with her pod in Haro Strait off San Juan Island on Saturday. Her ordeal of carrying her dead calf for at least 17 days and 1,000 miles is over

Center for Whale Research founder Ken Balcomb says he is immensely relieved to see J35 returning to typical behavior.

Balcomb said he also saw J50 with her mother and brother on Saturday, along with NOAA researchers who were following her to collect prey remains and feces.

The heartbreaking story of an orca whale mother who has been carrying her deceased calfs body with her for more than 1,500 km has come to an end.

The center said she had been seen briefly two days before without the calf, but the sighting Saturday was confirmation that her "tour of grief" was at an end. She is no longer carrying her baby, and she looks healthy.

Exacerbating the problem is that orcas do not have babies often or in large numbers, and when they do, it is a long process. She was forever picking up the body as it sank, hoisting it out of the water to take a breath, and repeating.

"This is something new; we never really experienced anything like this".

The calf is believed to have died the same day.

But Tahlequah would not let go.

And the phenomenon was no longer of purely scientific interest. People lost sleep thinking about the whale. "She carried this for 17 months before it was born", Atkinson said.

But on Saturday experts confirmed she had dropped the calf.

He added that members of his department and a non-governmental organization called Straightwatch would be out on the waters between Vancouver and San Juan Islands to track the pod of whales known as J Pod should they cross back into Canadian waters, keeping any ships in the area away from the orcas.

She finally abandoned the carcass as it decomposed, the AP reports. They're now tracking the young whale - Scarlet - in an attempt to feed her antibiotic-laced salmon.

At the same time, the mother's obsession has become gravely concerning to researchers. They anxious that the effort of pushing her calf - for about 1,000 miles (1,609 km) - would make Tahlequah weak and keep her from finding enough food. Fortunately, that doesn't appear to be the case.

The whale then "vigorously chased a school of salmon with her pod-mates in Haro Strait" off Canada's Vancouver Island, the Center for Whale Research (CWR) said.

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