It’s a girl! Researchers confirm gender of baby killer whale in B.C. waters

It’s a baby girl! The Center for Whale Research has confirmed the sex of a baby resident killer whale spotted shortly before the New Year in the southern Gulf Islands.

The new baby was first seen on Dec. 30, at just a few days old, swimming with her mother off of the shores of Pender Island.

At the time, researchers didn’t know the baby’s gender but have released new photos that show it’s a girl.

The calf gained attention because the whale believed to be its mother, called J16, is estimated to be about 43 years old, which is beyond the reproductive age for these whales.

The J pod baby — called J50 by researchers that designate these whales alpha-numerically — is doing well with its family today in the northern Georgia Strait of B.C., the centre said, in a statement on Thursday morning.

Researchers are still trying to confirm the whale is the baby’s mother, because there is a possibility the baby could belong to J36 — the 16-year-old daughter of J16. The centre says it is working with researchers from Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans to obtain facts and photographs that will help solve the mystery.

Southern resident killer whales are considered an endangered species, with just 78 in the waters of B.C. and Washington state, including the new arrival.

In early December, a 19-year-old whale identified as J-32 and a full-term fetus it was carrying were found dead off the shores of Vancouver Island. Another calf died about a month earlier.

Researchers believe the depletion of chinook salmon, which are the whales’ primary food source, has been the major problem in trying to rebuild the southern resident population.


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