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A Week Later, Orca Keeps Diving to Retrieve Dead Calf

Update given on J35 as of Monday afternoon
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 31, 2018 7:54 AM CDT

(Newser) – An endangered orca that spends time in Pacific Northwest waters is still carrying the corpse of her calf one week after it died. Experts with the Whale Museum on San Juan Island have been monitoring the 20-year-old whale, known as J35, since her calf died shortly after birth Tuesday. Jenny Atkinson, the museum's executive director, says the orca was still carrying her dead calf Monday afternoon, reports the AP, as part of what Atkinson characterizes as "a deep grieving process."

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For days now, the whale has been balancing the dead calf on her forehead or pushing it to the surface of the water, and while the Seattle Times reports that members of her pod had been accompanying her, on Sunday J35 apparently began to fall behind the rest. "I am so terrified for her well-being," the research director for nonprofit Wild Orca tells the Times. "She is a 20-year-old breeding-age female and we need her." There are concerns about whether she is getting enough to eat, especially amidst the laborious process of taking long and deep dives to retrieve the calf's carcass each time it escapes her. The calf was the first in three years to be born to the dwindling population of 75 endangered southern resident killer whales and lived for just 30 minutes.

(Read more orca stories.)

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