Birth of orca calf draws 3 pods to waters off Vancouver Island
VICTORIA -- In a rare and exciting event, three orca pods gathered in the waters off Vancouver Island for the birth of a new southern resident killer whale calf.
Members of the J pod, K pod and L pod were in the waters of the Haro Strait Wednesday morning to meet the new calf. The calf marks the fourth calf for 30-year-old L86, and the Center for Whale Research says it was surprised to learn the orca was pregnant.
The calf, now dubbed L125, is estimated to be between one to one-and-a-half months old, based on its size and the fetal folds still visible in pictures of the animal.
"It is nicely filled out and appears to be a perfectly normal little calf," said Dave Ellifrit, a photo-ID expert for the whale research centre.
However, another researcher at the centre, Ken Balcomb, says that it is important to temper expectations. While the calf is L86's fourth calf, two did not survive to see adulthood.
L86's first calf was a male born in 2005, who survived. Their next two calves, born in 2009 and 2014, died within the first three years of their lives.
The second calf, born in 2009, died of blunt force trauma during a military exercise in 2012, according to the Center for Whale Research. The third calf, born in 2014, died the same year.
Balcomb says it is unusual and exciting for the separate pods of the endangered species to gather in one area. He adds that it is rare for southern resident killer whales to be in this region at all during the winter season.
"It's interesting that all three pods got together at the time of this birth, as happened (on) September 5, 2020, when J35 Tahlequah gave birth to J57 and K and L pods came in from the Pacific to join J pod," wrote the Orca Network in a social media post Wednesday.
On Wednesday, researchers also saw J57 among the other orcas, who appeared to be in good health. L125 is the first calf to be born into the L pod since January 2019.
The Center for Whale Research is now monitoring the orcas in the area, and is interested in seeing if the three pods stick together or separate in the near future.