New calf spotted with endangered southern resident killer whale pod

After months of bad news, there finally may be a glimmer of hope for B.C.’s endangered southern resident killer whales.

On Friday, researchers confirmed that recent helicopter video filmed by the Seattle TV station King 5 News shows a new baby orca swimming with members of L pod.

The video, shot Thursday near Vachon Island in Washington state, shows the calf swimming next to the killer whale known as L77, who had previously been pregnant.

Ken Balcomb, founding director of the U.S.-based Center for Whale Research, confirmed that that this is the first sighting of the new calf. The young whale’s gender is unknown.

Watch helicopter video of the young calf swimming beside its mother

Helicopter footage from Washington State shows a new southern resident killer whale swimming beside L77 0:59

The southern residents have not had a successful pregnancy in three years.

The sighting follows ominous news about the West Coast’s southern resident killer whale population in recent weeks.

The population is at a 35-year low after three deaths in 2018, and earlier this month, scientists said they expect two more whales to die of starvation by summer.

The plight of the struggling population attracted attention from around the world this summer, when grieving mother J35 spent 17 days carrying her dead baby on her head as she travelled more than 1,600 kilometres.

Weeks later, another member of J pod, J50, was declared dead after a cross-border rescue effort to inject the calf with antibiotics and fight an apparent infection.

Scientists say the killer whales have been struggling to find enough food because of a decline in the Chinook salmon population.

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