Medication given to sick killer whale at sea to save her

John Durban  NOAA Fisheries FILE

John Durban NOAA Fisheries FILE

Sheila Thornton, lead killer whale research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said they are anxious that the time and energy it spends carrying the body could take away from foraging or feeding.

The teams were, however, racing out to sea to help another ailing young killer whale in the same critically endangered pod.

An ailing and emaciated orca named Scarlet may get food and antibiotics soon - if biologists can find her before it's too late.

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.

A team of veterinarians is now waiting in the state of Washington to try to approach the J-50 killer whale to give him antibiotics in USA waters.

"While very skinny and small, J50/Scarlet kept up well with her mother and siblings", NOAA stated on its website.

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

Marty Haulena, head veterinarian at Vancouver Aquarium, thinks about half of the dose went into the young orca.

"It is very possible that she has succumbed at this point and that we may never see her again", Rowles told reporters Tuesday.

"We have obvious concerns about the displacement of her behavior away from foraging and feeding, to carrying the calf, and concerns over the length of time of this behavior as it continues, and the possibility of decreasing her ability to forage effectively", Thornton said. "So we basically have to get within five metres of the whale", Hanson said.

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.

A photo of a response team pole as members try to take a breath sample and give antibiotics to southern resident killer whale J50 on Thursday.

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"We've been saying it for 20 years, the humans who have been studying these animals", Giles said, before noting that now "the animals themselves in the last three weeks, it's nearly like they've taken the torch".

The group will prioritize short-term and long-term actions, many of which are certain to focus on recovering the prized salmon that the fish-eating whales like to eat. She was last seen Thursday still carrying her calf.

By the time the whale entered her third day of mourning, Dr Balcomb, said he had never observed a whale mourn for such a long time.

The whales face nutritional stress over a lack of Chinook salmon as well as threats from toxic contamination and vessel noise and disturbances. By the time biologists from the Center for Whale Research arrived at her side, the calf was dead.

The Puget Sound calf was the first in three years to be born to the dwindling population of endangered southern resident killer whales.

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