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Orca calf
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First new Puget Sound orca calf in months spotted near Vashon Island

(AP)

A new orca calf was seen out near Vashon Island by KING 5’s helicopter Thursday. This is the first calf born in the area since the tragic death of one last summer, that saw its mother carry it for weeks afterwards.

RELATED: Expert skeptical of Washington state’s orca-saving proposal

The newest orca calf’s pod was last seen Friday swimming in the eastern Straight of Juan de Fuca toward Victoria, British Columbia.

The region’s resident orca population is critically endangered, down to just 75 — counting the new calf — among three pods the swim the Northwest waters. There hasn’t been a successful surviving calf since 2015, when three were born across two pods.

The gender of the new calf is unknown, and experts caution that there’s still a long way to go — the survival rate for a newborn orca calf is right around 50 percent.

That said, if it survives, this new calf marks a huge step forward for the region’s struggling orca population.

Meanwhile, steps are being taken on the side of state government, marked by Gov. Jay Inslee’s ambitious $1.1 billion budget for targeted solutions to save Northwest orcas.

That includes the revival of their primary prey, Chinook salmon, fixing fish passage barriers, greater enforcement for habitat protection laws, and converting two of the state’s ferries to hybrid-electric to reduce noise pollution that harms orcas’ ability to hunt.

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