Mother orca ends ‘tour of grief’ after 17 days; spotted feeding and frolicking

FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash.  — Researchers say an endangered killer whale that drew international attention as she carried her dead calf on her head for more than two weeks is finally back to feeding and frolicking with her pod.

The Center for Whale Research in Washington state says it watched the orca, known as J35 (Talequah), chase a school of salmon in Haro Strait west of San Juan Island on Saturday afternoon.

"Her tour of grief is now over and her behavior is remarkably frisky," Center for Whale Research founder Ken Balcomb said. "Telephoto digital images taken from shore show that this mother whale appears to be in good physical condition following her record-setting ordeal."

The whales have been struggling because of a lack of salmon, and J35's calf died soon after birth on July 24. The mother carried the baby on her head for at least 17 days, in an image of grief that struck an emotional chord worldwide.

The last time a southern resident birthed a calf that lived more than a few months was L123 in November 2015.

Researchers had hoped to perform a necropsy on J35's dead calf but that is likely not possible now.

"The carcass has probably sunk to the bottom of these inland marine waters of the Salish Sea, and researchers may not get a chance to examine it for necropsy," Balcomb said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.