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Another calf born to southern resident whale pod

By Marcus Hondro     Sep 8, 2015 in Science
There has been concern for the orca whale population in B.C. and Washington State waters, but it may be unwarranted. The populations have dwindled in recent years in the three pods that make the area their home but their numbers are now going back up.
This is the fifth orca whale calf, or killer whale, born since late December. It was born to L pod in B.C. waters near Sooke, on Vancouver Island west of Victoria and opposite Port Angeles in Washington. No word as yet as to the sex of the baby whale.
Marine biologists from the Center for Whale Research at Friday Harbour on the San Juan Islands has seen and photographed the new arrival. They've also measured the calf by use of a drone. Ken Balcolm from the centre said the killer calf is a very recent arrival.
"You can still see the folds on the baby where it was folded up in the uterus," he said. "Usually within a week that clears up and the fin gets folded over, and usually within a day it straightens out. Well, this one's already straightened out so it's probably at least a day old, but probably not more than two days old.
"It's good news all around," Balcolm added. "We're happy to see that they still can produce babies. One of the real concerns was toxins in their bodies causing them reproductive failure."
While the toxins Balcolm refers to, such as PCBs, are now banned, he said they are still in oceans and can accumulate and affect the food sources of orcas. Another problem is a lack of food due to a low salmon population and in recent years whales have starved and newborns died within a week.
Balcolm said the salmon population needs to be higher for the orcas to comfortably survive. Of late they appear to be faring better and there are now 81 southern resident orcas in total, which Balcolm called a "healthy number."
Of the three southern resident pods, L, K and J, this is the fourth birth since late December, with a transient pod also having a birth in B.C.waters, that birth near Tofino in June. J pod had a calve born in late December or early January and another in February, while L pod had one born in March.
To date it is believed all four of those calves are thriving. This latest orca calf has been dubbed L122 and was born to Mom L91, who is doing well.
More about orca whales, Killer whales, baby orca calve born in BC waters
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