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West Coast orca whales: J-pod adds third new calf of 2015

By Marcus Hondro     Oct 26, 2015 in Environment
The Southern Resident orca whale population has grown yet again with the birth of the third calf born to J-pod and the sixth orca born since January. The baby appears to be healthy and is likely under a week old.
Birth for J-pod
The Center for Whale Research in the San Juan Islands in Washington State reports the new calf was spotted over the weekend in Haro Strait. It has been given the "name" J-53 and was sticking by a 38-year-old member of J-Pod, Princess Angeline (that's a nickname; she's officially known as J-17).
As the newborn is swimming alongside Princess Angeline, Princess Angeline is believed to be J-53's mother, making the calf her fourth child; she's also a grandmother to two orcas.
When the previous addition to the southern resident population was learned of in September, to L pod, Ken Balcolm, a marine biologist at the Center for Whale Research, said orcas in Washington State and BC waters were again approaching a more "healthy number."
At one time, the southern resident orca population numbered as high as 120 but various factors, including dwindling food sources and toxins, began to decimate the pods and they were considered to be endangered. Even with all the births of late the number of orcas in the southern resident population, 82, is still considered low.
Growth of orca population
One problem for orcas, also known as killer whales, was the proliferation of pesticides and other toxins in ocean waters, dramatically affecting their reproductive health. Balcolm said regulations banning such substances as PCBs have been helpful and contributed to the recent spate of births.
While transient orca pods in Washington State and BC waters feed largely on seals, the southern resident pods rely on Chinook salmon as the main staple in their diet. At times in the recent past there has been a dearth of salmon and it has caused some orca deaths due to starvation.
The two other recent J-pod births came in late January and February. The first year in the life of an orca is crucial and to date all the newborns appear to be doing well.
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