Rescue team rushes to help ailing orca spotted off B.C.

Ken Balcomb with the Center for Whale Research said the southern resident orca J35 was spotted Thursday in the Strait of Juan de Fuca off the south shore of Vancouver Island.

"These are very intelligent animals, and the loss of this animal is quite profound for the matriline and everyone who witnesses it", said Sheila Thornton, lead killer-whale scientist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The U.S. and Canada have no plans to remove J50 from her pod in order to feed or medicate her, as that would likely cause too much stress to J50 and her pod.

Brad Hanson of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says hard conditions have prevented the teams from collecting breath and fecal samples but they are hoping weather conditions improve by Sunday.

When the water calmed, the team was also able to get a sample from her blow hole, which he said they believe will be very valuable to assess.

The team led by the USA agency lacks a permit to feed the sick whale live salmon in Canadian waters, though it had one for medical treatment.

J35 was first spotted July 24 carrying the calf on her nose and in her mouth.

As Tahlequah carries her deceased calf for a 17th straight day, and concerns mount about her health, taking the calf away is not an option because of the tight bond between Tahlequah and the rest of the pod to her baby - dead or alive, experts say.

Michael Milstein with NOAA Fisheries says experts plan to do a health assessment of the young whale if conditions allow.

The carcass is "surprisingly intact", she said.

"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.

Rowles said injections of antibiotics or sedatives have been given to other free-swimming whales or dolphins that were injured or entangled but it hasn't been done for free-swimming whales in this area.

But they don't plan to intervene to help a mother orca in the same critically endangered pod that also has them anxious. By doing so, you will help ensure that there are plenty of fish in the sea for the animals who actually need to eat these aquatic creatures to survive (unlike us).

The fish-eating orcas that frequent the inland waters of Washington state are down to 75 animals, and there has not been a successful birth since 2015. The whale could then be given live salmon dosed with medication.

A team of whale experts has injected an ailing killer whale with antibiotics in a rare emergency effort to save her.

The last time scientists rescued a killer whale in the region was in 2002 when a northern resident killer whale known as Springer was found swimming alone in Puget Sound. It returned to its family of whales in Canada later that year and in 2013 was seen with its new calf. Chinook salmon, their primary source of food, has been in a steep decline since the 1980s due to overfishing, habitat destruction and contaminated waters.

The orca was last seen off the coast of Washington on Wednesday.

  • Essie Rivera