'Considerable fog' complicates search for ailing orca J50

Biologists are keeping a close watch on J50 a 4-year-old southern resident killer whale. The indentation behind her head is indicative of a whale that is starving because the animal lacks the fatty deposits behind the cranium that create the usual smooth

Milstein said researchers with Fisheries and Ocean Canada also spotted another member of the same pod - the 3 ½-year old whale J50 that is emaciated.

The whale known as J50 is underweight and may have an infection.

There are now only 75 southern resident killer whales that live in the waters along the USA west coast from Alaska to California, according to Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research. Another female orca from the group that spends time in U.S. Northwest waters attracted global attention as the grieving animal tried to keep her dead baby afloat.

If a cause can be identified, the veterinarians on board will be able to sign off on the next step-the injection of a long-acting broad-spectrum antibiotic either from a pole or a dart gun.

USA biologists are racing to find the underweight 3-year-old animal to administer antibiotics either through food or by injection, but she could be dead or in Canada.

If things go well, she said, the team could move ahead with feeding the orca live salmon from a boat. They will sluice a few salmon off the boat towards the pod and observe from all angles to see if J50 will respond to the food.

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.

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She said weather conditions were improving, so they were hoping for another sighting in order to collect fecal and breath samples from J50.

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

After several days of searching, NOAA announced Tuesday evening that crews found J50 off Port Renfrew, near the west entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

"It was foggy up there for most of the day", Cottrell said. That data has documented orcas that declined and then disappeared.

"What they're working on this morning.to determine which method they're going to use, [is] based on the dose that they have configured for her", Rowles told ABC News on Tuesday. A final report is due in November.

An endangered orca was spotted still clinging to her dead calf more than two weeks after her newborn died. The first step, now that she has been recovered, will be a health assessment. The plan calls for live salmon provided by the Lummi Nation.

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