One whale researcher fears sickly orca J50 is dead

At least one scientist that's been working to save a sickly young Southern Resident Killer Whale says he fears she is dead.

 Earlier Thursday searchers located J-50's pod off the Juan Islands near Victoria.  But the young whale was not with them, sparking Ken Balcomb of the U.S.-based Center for Whale Research to say she may be dead.

But Michael Milstein with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says searchers are not giving up:

" Unfortunately the J-pod was seen today without J50. That was in the area of Victoria. So that's unfortunate news, but we're going to keep looking."

J-50 was last seen alive 6 days ago on Friday, September 7th.

She was so thin an international team announced they were working on a plan to capture her, nurse her back to health, and then release her back to the wild.

Milstein says crews are ready to go if they do find her:

"We're continuing to search, because we don't want to leave any chances that she'd be out there still alive, and not having done everything we could to find her." 

MiIstein notes J-50 has fallen behind her pod before, and the hope is she is still fighting to survive.

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