A team of experts have been searching for the young whale to assess her health and potentially give her food and medication, KIRO reports.
USA and Canadian officials acknowledged Thursday that they're concerned that J35's apparent grieving process could prevent her from foraging, but they have no plans to intervene at this point to remove the dead calf.
The experimental, emergency plan to save J50 requires scientists to nail down her ailments through breath and fecal samples, then administer long-lasting antibiotics by either pole-mounted syringe or dart.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said its effort will involve shooting antibiotics in the orca to aid with recovery and using a local tribe to feed them fish that has medicine, a rare practice that has not been tried in the wild before.
J50 was observed to be moving well, diving and moving from group to group, but he cautioned that other whales in similar condition to J50 have not survived. She returned to her family of whales in Canada later that year and was seen with her calf in 2013.
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He said they were a few hours into their six-hour day with J50 when all the conditions aligned and they chose to attempt to administer the antibiotics by dart. "But this sets a record", Centre for Whale Research senior scientist Ken Balcomb told the BBC.
Much of the observation of J35 is due to the fact that another of her podmates, J50, is ailing, and researchers are trying to intervene with that whale's medical care.
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 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. The fact that her body was likely prepped for lactation, too, means she has extra lipids in her blubber that will sustain her for a while.
University of Washington scientist Deborah Giles said she was heartbroken for what is happening with the mom and child.
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Killer whales, though they have a reputation for being ruthless predators, are some of the most socially sophisticated animals in the world. However, Hanson said, conditions have to be just right to do so.
The whales face nutritional stress over a lack of Chinook salmon as well as threats from toxic contamination and vessel noise and disturbances.
"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. Sadly though, less than an hour after being born, the calf died. "So we've been standing by here, hoping that the southern residents will come back in".
The task force is considering a range of efforts, from increasing hatchery production of salmon, training more private boats to help respond to oil spills, and prioritizing areas where important habitat can be restored. It's unclear if the whale has been eating, and scientists told the outlet her vast swim could very well be depleting her energy reserves.
They have called for the removal of four dams on the Lower Snake River to restore salmon runs.
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