Vets ready for rare efforts to save ailing endangered orca

Official says paperwork poses an issue to treat killer whale in Canadian waters

The whale would initially get just a few fish to see whether she takes it and how she and members of her pod respond before deciding whether to give her salmon dosed with medication.

Any treatment or close approaches could disturb the whales, interrupt their foraging patterns and put them at further risk, she said.

"If then things are going well and the behavior of the group and her responses to the (medication) is going okay, then they could move forward with the fish feeding trial", Rowles said.

J50, an emaciated and endangered killer whale that scientists feared could be dead has been spotted swimming in the waters off Vancouver Island.

Michael Milstein, a spokesman with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries division, says researchers on Wednesday spotted the 20-year-old whale carrying her dead young off the tip of Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

J50 and her brother in 2014.

An emaciated orca from the Pacific Northwest's critically-endangered resident killer whale population could get a pole injection of medicine under the latest preferred option of an emergency response team.

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J50 is one of only 75 Southern resident killer whales that swim the coastal waters between British Columbia to California.

DFO research crews have been out on the water every day trying to locate J50.

She said it became evident that "we needed to intervene to determine potentially what was the cause and whether there was anything we could do to assist her". The pod has been keeping to the outer coast and west end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and environs.

While it's not uncommon for southern resident killer whales to go unsighted for days, researchers are racing the clock to find the J pod because of the young whale's poor health.

But the treatment won't be possible if the whale is found in Canadian waters, according to Paul Cottrell of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, as officials are still dealing with paper work to ensure any efforts won't harm the rest of the pod before the treatment is approved.

Barre said multiple boat teams were on standby Monday to be in the position to collect breath droplets and feces from J50, which could provide better diagnostic information for why this orca is in markedly worse condition and malnourished compared to her relatives.

NOAA says it has legal authorization to try something it's never done before, which is feed the whale live medicated chinook salmon, as a way of delivering oral antibiotics. She was the first orca to be rescued, rehabilitated and successfully released back into the wild.

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