Researcher who tracks whales declares orca dead

SEATTLE (AP) — Efforts to find an ailing orca from a critically endangered population of killer whales off Washington state have come up empty, and a scientist who tracks them has declared her dead.

Ken Balcomb, of the Center for Whale Research, confirmed Thursday that he had declared the orca known as J50 dead after she failed to appear with her family in recent days.

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

Her loss brings the population of orcas that spend much of their time in the Pacific Northwest to just 74. The whales have been struggling with a dearth of their preferred prey, salmon, as well as pollution and boat noise.