The baby orcas just keep on coming

Excitement continues to build among killer whale observers, as seven newborn orcas have arrived in the past year. There have been no deaths during that time.

A newborn calf, L-114, is seen swimming with its mother, L-77, named Matia. The photo was taken Sunday in Cordova Bay on the eastern side of Vancouver Island near Nanaimo, B.C. (Click to enlarge)
Photo courtesy of Dave Ellifrit of the Center for Whale Research

He’s a story I prepared this morning for the Kitsap Sun Web site:

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

The young whale was spotted Sunday in Cordova Bay on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, by Ken Balcomb and Dave Ellifrit of the Center for Whale Research. The center maintains an ongoing census of the Southern Resident killer whale population.

The two researchers later confirmed that the newborn, designated L-114, is the offspring of L-77, a 22-year-old named Matia. This is her first known calf, though it is possible she has had one or more offspring that did not survive.

The mother and calf were traveling with another mother-calf pair, L-94, Calypso, and her calf, L-113, born last fall. Calypso is Matia’s sister. The four whales are part of a portion of L pod that often travels together. They have become known as the L-12 subpod.

Balcomb and Ellifrit reported that they observed the newborn calf Sunday afternoon while the whales were headed south in Cordova Bay. At about 5 p.m., they reached the southern shore and headed east toward open water. They appeared to be hunting for fish, with “lots of taillobs, cartwheels and pec slaps,” according to a report on the center’s Web page.

This is the seventh orca calf born to the three Southern Resident pods in the past year. There have been no deaths during that time. This latest birth brings L Pod’s population to 42 animals and the overall population to 89.

“This continues the streak,” said Howard Garrett of Orca Network. “I am at a loss for an explanation. I am just celebrating.”

“It’s great news for the population,” Balcomb said. “So far all of them are doing well.”

One thought on “The baby orcas just keep on coming

  1. This is so confusing. People for Puget Sound says that the Sound has been destroyed by bulkheads. If so, how can Orcas be reproducing?

    On the other hand, Canadians say their portion of the Salish Sea is “pristine”. Maybe that’s the answer.

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