Whale researchers identify new orca calf swimming with local pod


Researchers identified a new calf swimming with the Southern Resident killer whales. The orca was seen beside L77, who was pregnant.

The calf was named L124, or “Lucky.”

“I’m hopeful. Anything that brings attention to these whales and their predicament is good news,” Center for Whale Research Founder Ken Balcomb said. “Only a few people used to be interested.”

Balcomb confirmed Friday that the orca calf is the latest addition to L Pod. The calf is several weeks old and “energetic,” he reports. “So we hope to see it survive.”

On Thursday, the K Pod and L Pod whales were swimming near Vashon Island when KING 5 helicopter video gave researchers their first sighting of the calf. They do not know its sex yet. Researchers are hoping to determine that by photographs they’re taking of the whales.

“I don’t want to rain on the parade but the real statistic is when this calf reaches the age of sexual maturity which is a decade or more from now, that’s when we should be counting,” Balcomb said. “A little more than half historically. Neonate mortality is about 40 percent.”

On Friday morning, the L and K pods were swimming in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca heading toward Victoria.

There are two other pregnant whales in K Pod and J Pod who have not yet given birth.

K25, a male whale observed to be potentially fatally ill, is still alive. He is suffering from peanut head, a condition that results from weight loss begins the skull.