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An Orca Mother Carried Her Dead Calf’s Body With Her for Weeks in Mourning

Scientists stress that we still just don’t know very much about the emotional lives of animals with whom we share the planet, so we’re forced to hazard guesses based on observation alone, and one recent observation has struck a particular chord. An orca mother spent over two weeks swimming with her dead calf in apparent gesture of mourning.

The orca, known as J35, is part of a pod that’s been chasing a school of salmon near San Juan Island for the past few days. All the way back on July 24, J35 gave birth to a calf who died soon after labor. She’s carried the infant on her head ever since, an expression of the all-too-human feeling of just being unable to let go.

After 17 days of this, J35 finally abandoned her deceased calf to the ocean depths and rejoined her pod, feeding and “frolicking,” according to Center for Whale Research founder Ken Balcomb, who’s been monitoring her activities.

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