Tahlequah, the mother orca also known as J35, was spotted Wednesday afternoon, still carrying her dead infant calf for the 16th straight day.
“I am absolutely shocked and heartbroken,’’ said Deborah Giles, research scientist for University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and research director for nonprofit Wild Orca.
“I am sobbing. I can’t believe she is still carrying her calf around,” Giles said, adding, “I am gravely concerned for the health and mental well being of J35.
“Even if her family is foraging for and sharing fish with her, J35 cannot be getting the … nutrition she needs to regain any body-mass loss that would have naturally occurred during the gestation of her fetus and also additional loss of nutrition during these weeks of mourning.”
Michael Milstein, spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said Tahlequah was spotted at about 1:30 p.m. by researchers at Fisheries Oceans Canada.
Tahlequah was seen along with her entire family off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula. J50, the ailing 3 1/2-year-old orca in the same family also was seen, along with her mother, J16.
NOAA has mounted an emergency rescue plan for the young whale, J50, who is emaciated and may also have an infection. The agency submitted paperwork Wednesday afternoon for consideration by Canadian officials to allow medical intervention for the whale in Canadian waters if need be, including an injection of antibiotics.