For the fifth time in less than a year, Puget Sound’s Southern Resident Killer Whales have welcomed a baby. The Instagram-shared photo above and news release below are from the Center for Whale Research:
Today there was another new baby in the L pod! L91 was first seen near Sooke, BC this morning with a very newborn calf, confirmed a few hours later by Mark Malleson off Victoria, BC and CWR staffers, Dave Ellifrit and Melissa Pinnow, and by colleagues Drs. John Durban, Holly Fearnbach, and Lance Barrett-Lennard.
These latter colleagues happened to be in the area conducting a sequel to CWR aerial measurements of all of the SRKW’s (Southern Resident Killer Whales), this time with a very sophisticated hexacopter (Unmanned Aerial System – UAS, or drone). The measurements were accomplished on the US side of the border as Dave and Melissa took numerous identification photographs from the research vessel “Orca” at a respectful distance. The new calf is designated L122, and is the fifth new baby to come into the population since December, 2014. The mother and baby and other L pod whales spent the afternoon and evening in Haro Strait ‘fishing’, and by day’s end were joined by J and K pod members.
In the forty-year history of ORCA SURVEY, a long-term photo-identification study of this whale population, the greatest number of calves born in a year was 9 in 1977, and there were none born that survived in 2013 or 2014. We hope this year’s ‘baby boom’ represents a turnaround in what has been a negative population trend in recent years.