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New Baby Orca Born in Puget Sound Just in Time for the New Year

January 2, 2015

SEATTLE — Orca experts with the Center for Whale Research spotted a very young calf cruising along in its mama’s slip stream near Pender Island in British Columbia Tuesday.

Ken Balcomb, the head of the Center for Whale Research, believes the calf was no more than a day or two old when he spotted it, and he couldn’t say what sex it is. The baby pictures, however, are priceless. Check out a full slideshow at the Center for Whale Research.

The calf’s mother is 42-year-old J16, or “Slick.” She’s the oldest southern resident orca to reproduce in four decades of monitoring the endangered population. She was not expected to be carrying a calf due to her advanced age. J16 has produced offspring before though, which is a good indicator for the survival of her new calf, experts say.

There are just 78 southern resident orcas left. They make up of three pods, or families, known as the J, K and L pods. The J pod lost an adult female earlier this month. Scientists in the United States and Canada are analyzing her remains to determine the cause of death. It appears that the whale had been starving when she died and was struggling to give birth to a stillborn fetus.

Reproductive success in this population is extremely low. No calves have survived in the past 2 1/2 years. Experts attribute the low rate of survival to declines in chinook salmon (the preferred food of southern resident orcas) and exposure to pollution.

Featured Photo Credit: Center for Whale Research

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A pod of Orcas with a baby was in my neighborhood off the Boston Harbor Marina in Olympia Wednesday afternoon. Could it be a different one of was that JPod as well?

Hi Celia,

Not only are there two other pods (the Ks and the Ls) who hang out in this area, we also get transient orcas - these are the ones that eat seals and marine mammals, not salmon, as the J, K and L pods do. So, I couldn't tell you what you saw in Boston Harbor Marina. However, you should check out Orca Network (http://www.orcanetwork.org/Main/) where you can click on "sightings" and share your sightings, or find out what others are reporting. It's pretty cool!

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