Another baby orca has been born to the J pod, the Center for Whale Research confirmed on Friday.
This new baby is the second calf born this month for the pod that makes its home in Puget Sound waters.
The new baby is the second born to J41, also known as Eclipse. Her first calf, J51, was born in 2015.
“We’re very pleased to see that J41 has had her baby,” said Ken Balcomb, founder and executive director of the Center for Whale Research. “However, it’s too soon to determine the status of the calf, and further observations are necessary before we’ll make an announcement of the new baby’s health.”
The Pacific Whale Watch Association reports the birth was witnessed by professional naturalists Talia Goodyear and Leah Vanderwiel on the Orca Spirit Adventures vessel Pacific Explorer off the Victoria, B.C., waterfront on Thursday.
“We spotted who we soon identified to be J41 just southwest of Race Rocks,” Goodyear said. “She appeared to be alone at the time and stayed very close to the surface for a few minutes. After going under for several minutes, she reappeared, and this time it looked like she was pushing something with her rostrum. She surfaced like this three or four times.”
“It took us a little while to really figure out what was going on,” Goodyear said, “so it was a bit of an emotional roller coaster as we thought of all the possibilities. Although we thought we were certain this was an SRKW, we did question whether this was a Biggs killer whale with a seal, or if we were seeing a buoy and this was an entanglement, and then we were concerned we could be re-living the tragic situation with J35 and her deceased calf from 2018.”
“She was aiding the baby up for a few breaths with her rostrum,” Vanderwiel added, “at which point the little one started surfacing on its own. It appeared to be a rambunctious little bundle of baby, as
every surface was exaggerated and playful. We watched as they continued to head off southwest from Race Rocks.”
Three weeks earlier, on Sept. 4, J35 — also known as Tahlequah — gave birth to J57. The Center for Whale Research confirmed this week that her baby is a male. The world mourned in 2018 along with J35, who spent 17 days carrying her deceased baby over 1,000 miles.
The Center for Whale Research reports as of Dec. 31, 2019, there were 73 whales in the J, K, and L pods, which make up the Southern Residents. Two new babies would mean 75 whales for the group.
The center says the J pod is most likely to appear year-round in the waters near the San Juan Islands and Southern Gulf Islands, lower Puget Sound (near Seattle), and Georgia Strait.