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It’s a boy: Orca whale calf born in Puget Sound is a male

Southern resident orcas. (AP)

It’s a boy! It is now confirmed that the orca whale calf born in the Puget Sound earlier this month is male.

The Center for Whale Research says the local orca pods need more female calves, but any additions are welcome. The young whale, dubbed J57, appears healthy.

The calf was spotted Tuesday near Point Roberts swimming alongside his mother, J35.

The calf’s mother — also known as Tahlequah — lost a calf in 2018. It lived for less than an hour, and she then carried it for 17 days and 1,000 miles, refusing to let it go.

Researchers first found out that Tahlequah was pregnant again in July — at the time, her calf was given a 50% chance of surviving its first year. While pregnancies are not unusual, most pregnancies for the southern resident whales are not successful. Tahlequah already has one grown offspring who is still part of the J-pod.

Following the birth of J57, there are now approximately 73 Southern Resident Killer Whales.

‘Cautious optimism’ for new orca calf as whales appear to be eating more

The endangered Southern Residents have for years been battling starvation and other health issues brought on by a lack of Chinook salmon in the Puget Sound, polluted waters, and vessel noise, which can hinder their ability to find food.

But this summer, said Kelley Balcomb-Bartok, communications director for the Pacific Whale Watch Association, the outlook for the Southern Residents appears to be changing a bit — and that comes just in time for the new orca’s birth.

“The good news is that many of the Southern Residents this year, in the photographs, in the aerial surveys, are looking healthy, are looking like they’re finding food,” he said. “So that adds a real positive note to the successful potential of J35’s latest calf, J57.”

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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