Killer whale baby boom at nine and counting

The killer whale baby boom continues on the West Coast, where researchers have documented yet another new calf in the southern resident population.

The tiny new orca, estimated to be a few days old, was first observed on Monday in Puget Sound as the latest addition to the J pod.

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The baby represents the ninth live birth in the population since December 2014.

The apparently healthy calf was seen close to two female whales, J14 and J37, so its mother has yet to be identified.

“The southern resident orca ‘baby boom’ is starting to sound like a long, sustained rumble, and it certainly is music to our ears,” Michael Harris, executive director of Pacific Whale Watch Association, said in a statement on Tuesday.

However, he noted that U.S. government scientists also observed a 20-year-old whale pushing out a dead neonate calf during their latest research trip.

The expectant mother, J31, has never successfully delivered a calf. Researchers have suggested that at least half of baby orcas do not live to see their first birthday.

“I guess we all have to be aware of reality — this population has turned a corner, no question, but in no way is it out of the woods,” Harris said.

“We’ve got some tough salmon years ahead of us, and that means extra pressure on the whales.”

There are now 85 members of the southern resident killer whale population living in the wild.

The southern resident population is the smallest of four resident killer- whale communities living in the Pacific Ocean off the B.C. and the U.S. coasts.

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