New L-pod calf joins the Salish Sea clans

Killer whale observers are celebrating the birth of a new calf born in L pod, one of the three groups of whales that frequent Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. The proud mom is L-47, also known as “Marina.”

A new calf has been born to L-47, known as Marina. The calf has been designated L-115.
Photo by Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research

The calf, less than three weeks old, appears to be doing fine, according to Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research. Excitement over the birth is tempered somewhat by the knowledge that Marina has lost five of her seven known calves, with survivors being two of her older offspring.

In phoning Ken to confirm the new calf, I knew I needed to ask about missing orcas — the ones not seen this summer. In the spring, observers will keep looking intently for missing whales. Late in the summer, it becomes time to face the fact that some individuals will never be seen again.

Unfortunately, three killer whales must be placed on the list of those “missing and presumed dead.” Two orcas born in 1986 — L-73 (“Flash”) and L-74 (“Saanich”) have been missing for several months.

Until now, Ken was not quite ready to give up on K-11, “Georgia.” At an estimated age of 77, she was the oldest whale in K pod.

“We’ve been hoping we would see K-11,” Ken told me. “We did see her in May, but she didn’t make it to July, and we did not see her recently. I think that’s enough time.”

So the new total for all three pods drops to 87, from 89 in my previous report.

To end on a positive note, the whales appear to be successfully hunting for salmon this summer in the San Juan Islands and up into Canada. They will likely go into winter with adequate body mass.

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