Dr. Martin Haulena, the chief veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium, said a one- or two-day "mourning period" is common in many cetacean species such as whales and dolphins, but the 17-day-long journey was distinctly unusual.
Researchers said J35 towed the calf for almost 1,000 miles over a span of 17 days. He said the mother traveled more than 1,000 miles with the corpse.
"There had been reports from brief sightings by whale-watchers two days ago that J35 (Tahlequah) was not pushing the calf carcass in Georgia Strait near Vancouver", researchers said. She was also seen frolicking with her pod.
That was the beginning of a long funeral procession. She was forever picking up the body as it sank, hoisting it out of the water to take a breath, and repeating.
Researchers with the Canadian and USA governments and other organisations tracked her all the while, the Seattle Times wrote.
Photos and video showing Tahlequah keeping the baby whale's body afloat soon after it died quickly went viral, especially after each passing day.
But Tahlequah would not let go.
People wrote poems about Tahlequah, and drew pictures.
Tahlequah is one of two orcas in the pod that scientists have been monitoring.
"I am sobbing. I can't believe she is still carrying her calf around", Giles told the Seattle Times. "She carried this for 17 months before it was born", Atkinson said.
The centre says J35 appears to be in good health based on telephoto images, in spite of concerns she may not have been able to forage for food while carrying around the carcass.
Experts say each orca is crucial to the pod's survival. They're now tracking the young whale - Scarlet - in an attempt to feed her antibiotic-laced salmon.
In that sense, maybe, Tahlequah's doomed calf did bring new hope to the pod, which had previously swum and struggled in near-anonymity.
At the same time, the mother's obsession had become gravely concerning to researchers.
The Center for Whale Research said the killer whale, known as J35, was spotted off the western coast of San Juan Island, Wash., without her baby while she chased a school of salmon with her podmates for about a kilometre.