Worldwide team gives medication to sick killer whale at sea

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"She was breathing very well; her respiratory rate was normal", he said.

'(The mother) is bonded to (the calf) and she doesn't want to let it go.

'You could see the shape of her skull through her blubber, ' said Dr Giles. "I don't think there's going to be a whole lot for J35 to hang on to much longer". "But this sets a record", Centre for Whale Research senior scientist Ken Balcomb told the BBC.

The heartbreaking story about a grieving mother orca who has spent the past 16 days carrying the body of her dead calf has gained an enormous amount of attention. 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. Her immediate family has been spotted helping her eat.

"Obviously the connection [the pod] has formed with this calf is substantial and is something that we do have to take into account - what or how that might impact the whale from her behavioral state", Hanson said.

Dolphins she has studied have an extra-rich layer of blubber at pregnancy, to prepare for the tremendous energetic cost of lactation. Thornton added that the calf is still "surprisingly intact". "The other concern is that she might be food-limited".

The whale was given a dose of antibiotics from a dart Thursday, and a veterinarian was able to do a health assessment. Thursday was the 17th day since its death. The orca may also have an infection.

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J50 and the pod were seen around Race Rocks in the Strait. If she eats the salmon, researchers will discuss delivering more medication through live fish. But catches of chinook are too unreliable for both people and whales to get enough fish for J50; at least 15 hatchery fish will be transported for the whale, with more in reserve.

"The big question is, can we craft public policy that can make a difference in the future of the orca, and by doing so make a positive difference in how we live in Puget Sound", Purce said in an interview Monday. The blow of a young whale is only about a foot and a half high, so winds must be calm and the whales close in order to collect a sample.

Any intervention with the pod will be contingent on the behavior of the whales, as well as the weather and swell conditions. If they are busy traveling, biologists can't just push into the pod. "The feeling is it's quite urgent given the whale's condition".

It's the first time such a treatment has been used on a wild killer whale, NOAA said. "So we've been standing by here, hoping that the southern residents will come back in".

Many have expressed surprise at just how powerfully watching Tahlequah has affected them.

Scarlet, also known as J50, was last seen in Canadian waters Saturday, on the west side of Vancouver Island. "But it is it very, very, real", she said. The idea of removing the calf from her mother is "not on the table", according to Brad Hanson, a wildlife biologist with NOAA.