For the first time since July, a new baby orca has been spotted in the Salish Sea! The news came out last week that a new calf was spotted swimming with the Southern Resident Orcas in Puget Sound, making this little one the first successful pregnancy and birth for these orcas in three years. Another calf was born in July of 2018 to J35 but sadly, that calf only lived for half an hour and J35 spent a little over 2 weeks actively grieving. But the good news is that this new calf spotted last week was born to an orca in the L pod and appears to be several weeks old now!
The Southern Resident Orca population has been declining over the years and things have been getting dire recently. With this new calf, there are now 75 southern residents that live in three pods. Southern Resident Orcas are an extended family/clan that call the Salish Sea home and are called ‘southern residents’ because of their travel patterns in the waters around Vancouver Island (they were regularly spotted off the southern part of the island, as you might infer). These orcas call the Salish Sea home and are often seen in the inland waters of Washington state and in southwestern waters of British Columbia, Canada.
- Washington’s Proposed Temporary Ban on Whale Watching Tours [Animals of the Pacific Northwest, Nov 12, 2018]
There are three pods of Southern Residents: the J, K, and L pods. Each orca in these pods is numbered with the corresponding letter of what pod they belong to. This new little calf was born to L77 (also known as Matia) and has been named L124. Ken Balcomb, the founder of the Center for Whale Research, has also been calling the new calf ‘Lucky’. Balcomb does warn that newborn mortality for orcas is about 40%, meaning that despite Lucky’s successful birth and energetic few weeks of life, there’s a chance it doesn’t make it to adulthood.
If you would like to learn more about orcas, including the Southern Resident Orcas, there are a few different ways! The Center for Whale Research and Orca Conservancy are two organizations that research these animals and have a lot of information on their websites. Plus, the 2013 documentary Blackfish also looks at the history of keeping orcas in captivity, including how many orcas were captured off the coast of Washington state in the 1970s.
- New Images of the Southern Resident Orca Calf Released by Zosha Millman, SeattlePI
I’m incredibly excited that there’s an orca calf that’s made it to be a few weeks old so far but I’m also trying to be cautiously optimistic. The Southern Residents are such a vital and iconic part of the Salish Sea and I’m hopeful for all the work and research that’s being done to better understand and help these animals. If you’re looking for things to do or how to help, the Center for Whale Research and Orca Conservancy are both great places to start in addition to helping you learn more!
Finally, welcome to the world little Lucky the orca. We’re rooting for you!