'She certainly does look pregnant': Another endangered B.C. orca may be expecting
VICTORIA -- It’s a photo taken by Washington State resident Brittany Philbin that is bringing hope and optimism to those close to our southern resident killer whale population.
“She breached like 20-30 feet offshore from me,” said Philbin. “I swung my camera to the right, snapped two photos and thought, ‘Oh crap, that photo is going to be blurry.’”
But when she looked at the photos, they were perfect.
“I thought, ‘No way, this photo is actually in focus and that’s a huge whale,’” she told CTV News.
A huge whale, possibly sporting a baby-bump.
“I’m not a veterinarian but she certainly does looks pregnant,” said Anna Hall, a marine mammal zoologist with Sea View Marine Sciences in Victoria.
The pregnancy is unconfirmed at this point. Drone footage will need to be shot to compare her current size to past photos, say researchers.
If J-46 does indeed have a giant bun in the oven, it’s very good news for the endangered southern resident killer whale population who have had a pretty tough go of it over the past 10 years.
There has been malnutrition caused by a declining food source, lack of reproduction within the pods and of course, who could forget those images of a grieving mother, pushing her dead calf around for 17 days. That was in 2018. This year, that mother has successfully given birth again.
“I’m hopeful and I would like to think if there is a third calf coming, let’s hope that it’s a female,” said Kelley Balcomb-Bartok, communications director at the Pacific Whale Watch Association.
“Females are eventually the ones that raise the young and make many offspring. They become the great matriarchs decades from now,” he said.
In the meantime, Philbin says she’s happy she managed to capture the whale on camera.
“It’s a once in a lifetime photo for sure,” said Philbin.
That photo is offering a reason to be hopeful.
“When you’re working with an endangered population, you have to take every ray of hope you can,” said Hall.
So far, two calves have been born this year, bringing the total southern resident killer whale population to 74. Perhaps the 75th is on its way.