October 15, 2009 · Updated 5:06 PM
A calf has been born to L pod, bumping the Southern Resident killer whale population to 86.
Center for Whale Research director Ken Balcomb said today that the calf was born sometime between Sept. 20, when the pod was last seen without a new calf, and Oct. 10, when the calf was sighted off Port Townsend.
Photographer Jami Nagel, a naturalist with Island Adventures Cruises, photographed the calf while it was traveling with L94, a 14-year-old female; and L41, a 32-year-old male.
"Until further documentation, the identity of the mother is unsure," the whale advocacy group Orca Network reported on its Web site.
The center, which maintains a census of the Southern Resident pods, has designated the calf L113.
"We are hoping the whales come back in again soon, and that this new calf survives," Orca Network reported. "If it is a first-born calf, its chances of survival are less (due to the high amount of toxins off-loaded from a new mom into her first born), and the first year of life for any orca calf can be tenuous."
The Southern Resident killer whales are on the U.S. and Canadian endangered species lists. Their population, believed to have been historically in the high 100s, was decimated by captures for marine parks, which ended in the 1970s, followed by pollution and declining salmon populations. The National Marine Fisheries Service is writing a recovery plan for the pods.
Within the last 10 years, the population dropped from 99 and has seesawed in the low- to mid-80s. Balcomb said L113 is the first Southern Resident orca calf born since J45 in February.