New calf born in J Pod, raising population again

I have written the following story for tomorrow’s Kitsap Sun.

<em>A new killer whale calf has been born in J Pod, one of the three groups that frequent Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. The mother has been identified as 12-year-old J-35, known as Tahlequah.</em><br><small> (Photo by Jeff Hogan, NOAA permit #781182400)</small>
A new killer whale calf has been born in J Pod, one of the three groups that frequent Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. The mother has been identified as 12-year-old J-35, known as Tahlequah.
(Photo by Jeff Hogan, NOAA permit #781182400)

A new calf has been born into J Pod, one of the three groups of orcas that frequent Puget Sound and the Salish Sea.

The young whale was spotted Sunday in Puget Sound by a research crew headed by Brad Hanson of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Today, Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research designated the calf as J-47 and confirmed that the mother is J-35, a 12-year-old orca known as Tahlequah.

At 12, Tahlequah is a young mother, and many first-born orcas do not survive their first year. Researchers say the reasons for the high newborn mortality may include a heavy dose of toxic chemicals they receive from their moms. But Balcomb said this newborn looks robust and healthy.

“It’s pretty amazing, but there it is,” Balcomb said. “It looks good and is filled out. I’m hoping that the generations (of orcas) coming along now are relatively clean. The ones in the ’60s and ’70s were dirty (with toxics).”

The population of J Pod has now reached 28 and that of the three Salish Sea pods stands at 88 with the birth of six calves within the past year.

For a population chart for the Salish Sea orcas, check out this page by Orca Network. Orca Network also maintains an ongoing list of births and deaths.

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