Orca calf spotted among critically endangered Southern Residents | KNKX

Orca calf spotted among critically endangered Southern Residents

Jan 11, 2019

A new calf was spotted Friday among the population of critically endangered Southern Resident orcas.

Ken Balcomb, of the Center for Whale Research, told The Seattle Times that the calf — just weeks old — was first seen today at the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

TV stations aired aerial footage on Thursday of several groups of killer whales that were swimming in Puget Sound near Seattle.

“CWR researcher, Melisa Pinnow, was able to see that L pod individuals were in one of the groups with a new baby,” the center said in a news release. “It was associated with a female, L77.”

The calf looks healthy, Balcomb says, but survival rates for baby orcas are only about 50 percent.

No calf born in the past three years has survived. Two other orcas, J-17 and K-25, are known to be sick, and researchers fear they could die by the summer.

New calf spotted Friday near the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Credit Dave Ellifrit / Center for Whale Research

Only 75 Southern Residents remain in the wild, including the new calf. The orcas have been starving as Chinook salmon populations dwindle; vessel noise and pollution also have contributed to their decline.

Last year, the world watched as a grieving mother, Tahlequah (J-35), carried her dead calf for weeks after it died — just under an hour after it was born.

Gov. Jay Inslee released his proposed two-year budget ahead of the legislative session, which begins Monday, that includes $1.1 billion to address water-quality improvements and other environmental efforts that would help the ailing species.