There’s a new arrival in the Southern Resident pod!
A brand new calf, estimated at less than a week old, was spotted off San Juan Island over the weekend by the Center for Whale Research. This is the first new baby seen since 2012, when two calves were born – one in J pod and one in L pod. This birth brings the total number of the endangered Southern Resident population to 79 individuals and some good news for these whales after the loss of two L pod members this summer.
Mom L86, Surprise!, lived up to her name by showing up with the new calf on Saturday, September 6. Orcas have a gestation period of 15-17 months, and in the Southern Resident population, most births seem to take place in the fall and winter months when the whales are outside their core summer habitat. New members are often not seen until they come back with their families in the summer. However, births can occur at any time of the year and have been observed in the summer months, just like this latest arrival.
So far, the newest member of the Southern Residents has been seen in the company of mom Surprise!, aunt L27 (Ophelia), and older brother L106 (Pooka). These orcas live in matrilineal family groups, with all members helping to raise new babies – older siblings, aunts, and uncles often act as babysitters.
The new baby will be designated L120 as the 120th known member of L pod. If he/she survives their first year, members of the public can suggest and vote on an official name – so start brainstorming some ideas and let’s keep our fingers crossed we see this little one again next summer!