Sixth Calf born to Southern Residents
This week, the Center for Whale Research reported another new calf in J pod, seen swimming with presumed Mother J17 (Princess Angeline). This latest new arrival, designated J53, is the third new baby in J pod in 2015, and the sixth overall within the last year. He or she joins other J pod calves J50 (born December 2014), J51, and J52; and two new L pod calves L121 and L122. The first year of life can be difficult for new orca calves, with a mortality rate of approximately 50%. So far, all the new additions seem to be doing well, and the four who have made it past the six-month mark have been given names by the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor: J50 (Scarlet), J51 (Nova), J52 (Sonic), and L121 (Windsong). Birth rates in the Southern Resident community fluctuate between years and has been shown to be closely correlated with the coastwide abundance of their primary prey, Chinook salmon. Prior to this year, the Southern Residents had not had a suriving calf since 2012, and have had a nearly two-to-one death-to-birth ratio in recent years.