Sci-tech

Scientists give medicine to sick killer whale near Washington State

Scientists give medicine to sick killer whale near Washington State

The whale known as J35 was spotted in coastal waters near the border between British Columbia and Washington state Wednesday with the carcass of her calf that was born and died on July 24.

Whale experts have been increasingly anxious about J50 after a researcher last month noticed an odor on the orca's breath, a smell detected on other orcas that later died.

J50, the ailing 3 1/2-year-old orca, was seen along with her mother, J16.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it is working closely with the US Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to determine the best way to proceed.

Teams of whale experts on Thursday were racing out to sea to help an ailing young killer whale, but they don't plan to intervene to help a mother orca in the same critically endangered pod that has been pushing the body of its dead calf for more than two weeks.

Fearing that J50's fate will be the same if they don't intervene, scientists are considering multiple strategies created to save the starving whale, including feeding her live salmon dosed with medication at sea. Scientists had no plans to take the calf away from J35 or her pod, noting the "tight bond, "reports The Seattle Times".

Scientists say the animal has now fallen behind her pod and is at risk of becoming isolated.

Milstein said that veterinarian Marty Haulena from the Vancouver Aquarium got a thorough look at J50 and the team obtained a breath sample that will help assess any infection.

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'You could see the shape of her skull through her blubber, ' said Dr Giles.

"Removing the calf would be a very, very hard decision, and obviously we would have to take many factors into consideration, so that's now not on the table", she said.

But they don't plan to intervene to help a mother orca in the same critically endangered pod that also has them anxious. "I'm not even sure we would be successful".

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced late Thursday that response teams spotted J50, also known as Scarlet, and the rest of her pod of southern resident killer whales in Canadian waters and followed them into the US near San Juan Island.

The young whale is one of just 75 of the fish-eating orcas that frequent the inland waters of Washington state. Researchers with the Whale Sanctuary Project took a sample of the fish scales so they can later genetically track whether the whales consume that fish, while other crews with the Lummi tribe scooped the salmon out of a large bin and sent it into the water. She was last seen Thursday still carrying her calf.

The whales face nutritional stress over a lack of Chinook salmon as well as threats from toxic contamination and vessel noise and disturbances. It was fed live salmon in the pen.

"What we are going to concentrate on in the next few days is her ability to eat", said Haulena.

If you'd like to be a part of the solution to saving these attractive whales, one easy step you can take is to reduce or completely do away with your personal consumption of seafood.


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