Researcher who tracks whales says ailing orca likely died

Researcher who tracks whales says ailing orca likely died

FILE – In this Aug. 7, 2018, file photo, Southern Resident killer whale J50 and her mother, J16, swim off the west coast of Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew, B.C. Nearly two months after an international team of experts began taking extraordinary measures to save the young sick orca, the critically endangered whale is skinnier than ever. Now NOAA Fisheries and its partners are weighing whether to intervene further to help the orca known as J50. (Brian Gisborne/Fisheries and Oceans Canada via AP, file)

SEATTLE (AP) — Teams are searching for an ailing, critically endangered orca that a scientist who tracks the whale population in the Pacific Northwest says is likely dead.

Experts have been preparing last-ditch efforts to save the nearly 4-year-old, emaciated whale that included the possibility of capturing and treating her.

Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research said Thursday he believes the whale known as J50 “is gone.”

Researcher who tracks whales says ailing orca likely died

Michael Milstein, a spokesman for NOAA Fisheries, said boats and planes in the U.S. and Canada are looking but that Balcomb usually makes such calls on missing whales because he keeps the population data.

He said J50 has not been seen in recent days with her family. J50 went missing earlier this month but later turned up.

The loss of J50 would bring the number of southern resident killer whales to just 74 animals.

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