The clock is ticking for a young, southern resident orca, J-50


WATCH: The clock is ticking for a young, southern resident orca.  As of this morning, there was still no sign of the ailing J-50.  Scientists and veterinarians on both sides of the border are preparing for an emergency health assessment and medical intervention when J-pod returns to inland waters.  Mary Griffin reports.

The fog is thick on Vancouver Island’s west coast, making it tough for scientists searching for an orca offshore.

They’re looking for J-50.

She’s a three and a half-year-old orca, but the same size as a one-year-old.

Her weight loss dramatic in the last year.

To save her, researchers are trying a world first, feeding the young orca in the wild.

This video, produced by Children of the Sun Productions, shows how members from the Lummi Nations are testing out how it will work.

Lummi councilor Nick Lewis said the plan is to get out as soon as the orcas are sighted.

“Test the system to see if it gets the fish there. See how long the fish can do, see how they can do,” Lewis said.  “Make sure that we can drop them when the orcas come back, and put them right in front of them, in their path.”

This is J-50 in January 2014, with her mother in 2015 just weeks after her birth.

But she and her pod are missing, not seen since Friday off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

And while they are hopeful, they are worried according to Dr. Teri Rowles, Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Program Coordinator with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“It is very possible that she has succumbed at this point, and we may never see her again. We are hopeful that there is still a chance,” Rowles said.

As soon as she re-appears, scientists are ready.

First an assessment for any sign of infection.

If she gets close enough, they’ll inject her with antibiotics using a dart gun.

And then feed her chinook salmon, stuffed with medicine.

Lummi Hereditary Chief Bill James said it’s a risk but worth it.

“We’re just doing the best we can to help out,” James said.

DFO scientists, if they had spotted her, would have been able to do is perform a health assessment, such as take breath and fecal samples.

But they lack the federal permits to feed and medicate her.

Those permits, and licenses should be in place Wednesday morning.

But as of Tuesday afternoon, there was no sign of J-50, or any members of J-Pod in U.S. or Canadian waters.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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