It was a good way to end the year for the Southern Resident orcas, as the endangered pod grew by one with a spotting of a calf near the waters of Vancouver Island.
Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research out of Washington State confirmed 42-year-old J16 (known as Slick) most likely birthed her baby — known as J50 — shortly after Christmas.
Balcomb discovered J16 with her newborn calf during an encounter off the south shores of North Pender Island.
The news comes shortly after the pod lost a pregnant female, J32 or Rhapsody, in December. The 19-year-old orca was found near Bates Beach and brought ashore for biologists to perform an exam and post-mortem.
The Southern Resident community had been dropping in population to 77 members, and was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
According to the Orca Network, no other female has given birth at over 42 years of age in the four decades of demographic field studies of the pod.
The recent spotting of J50 indicates the birth may have been difficult, with deep tooth marks on its dorsal fin, indicating assistance by another orca.
Balcomb noted on the Orca Network website at a day or two old, J50 snuggled in her mother’s slipstream, and looked healthy and energetic.
A report earlier this week said the pod was heading north from Puget Sound, possibly toward Nanaimo. The pod passed through the Georgia Strait southbound two weeks ago.