Whale of a report: 2 new orca calves spotted in L-Pod

Jul 1, 2023, 10:55 AM | Updated: Jul 2, 2023, 4:50 pm

Image: L94 and her new calf L127 (Photo courtesy of Center for Whale Research)...

Image: L94 and her new calf L127 (Photo courtesy of Center for Whale Research)

(Photo courtesy of Center for Whale Research)

Local whale watchers have not one, but two new calves to welcome to the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population.

The Center for Whale Research (CWR) confirmed Friday L-Pod members L-119 and L-94 each have given birth to a calf. Each is about two months old and both are very active and social. Neither shows any immediate signs of illness or abnormality, the CWR reported.

L119’s calf is named L126 and L94’s is 127. L126 is L119’s first calf, while L127 is L94’s third.

“I mean, every single addition we can get to this population is huge,” Michael Weiss, the CWR’s research director recently said to KIRO Newsradio’s. At the time, they thought there might be just one new member of the L-pod.

CWR researchers encountered the two calves during a survey of a group containing members of J pod and the L12 subgroup in Canada’s Strait of Georgia Friday.

These are the first calves born in L pod since 2021. These are also the first calves born in the L12 subgroup since 2018.

The CWR notes the first year is challenging for young whales, but the organization hopes “both calves and their mothers can survive and thrive well into the future.”

Important note for boaters: New law requires staying farther away from Southern Resident orcas

One of the calves was spotted off Tofino, British Columbia, last month next to an adult whale. Weiss said at the time they didn’t yet know who its mother might be.

“These whales do babysit, so until we can get out there and see who it’s consistently traveling with, we don’t know who the mom is, yet,” Weiss noted.

More orca information

Researchers who monitor the endangered whales say the animals travel a wide range, with some spotted from southeast Alaska to Monterey Bay, California.

“They have a huge, huge area that they cover over the course of a year,” Weiss said.

The whales may also be expanding the area they travel in the search for food. In particular, the decline in Chinook salmon that has threatened the whale’s existence. Unlike Transient or “Bigg’s” killer whales, the Southern Resident doesn’t eat other marine mammals.

They’re back: First humpback whale moms, calves return to local waters for feeding season

In May, a tour spotted a large orca grouping for Northern California — roughly two dozen — off the San Francisco coast. They likely gathered together to celebrate a successful hunt for sea lions or seals.

According to The Associated Press, the whales were seen May 7 about 28 miles west of San Francisco. They can be spotted anywhere from the coastline to five miles off shore, according to Nancy Black, a marine biologist and owner of Monterey Bay Whale Watch.

Contributing: Lisa Brooks, Heather Bosch

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Whale of a report: 2 new orca calves spotted in L-Pod