British Columbia

Killer whale mother still carrying dead newborn 16 days later

In what observers have called an extraordinary display of grief, killer whale J-35 has been spotted again still carrying the body of her newborn 16 days after the calf died.

J-35 has captured worldwide attention by the display of what looks like grief

Orca mother J35, balancing her dead baby on her nose trying to keep it afloat on July 25, 2018. (Kelley Balcomb-Bartok)

UPDATE: Researchers call display of grief 'unprecedented'

More than two weeks since her newborn calf died, the killer whale known to researchers as J-35 has been spotted again Wednesday still carrying the calf's body.

The calf was born July 24, but died shortly after and the mother has refused to let go.

In the days that followed, J-35 drew worldwide attention for what looks to human observers like an extraordinary display of grief.

She has been seen pushing the dead offspring along the water with her forehead, or grasping the calf's tail in her mouth — activities that experts say take huge amounts of energy for a swimming whale.

J-35 hadn't been seen since last week when her family group, known as J-pod, swam into the fog off Vancouver Island, B.C.

But Wednesday afternoon, Fisheries and Oceans Canada observers spotted her again, with the calf, and a struggling young whale named J-50 that biologists are trying to help.

The J-pod is part of the critically endangered southern resident population of killer whales, with only 75 individuals left.

The last successful birth in the population was three years ago.