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Newborn orca off San Juan photographed by observers
Three whale advocates — one of them a self-described "land-based whale geek" — sighted a newborn orca calf swimming with J pod while they were watching the whales Nov. 11.
Jeanne Hyde, the whale geek, sent some of her photos to Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research. He confirmed that the orca is indeed a newborn calf in J pod; he designated the whale J46.
The birth brings the Southern Resident population to 87.
Hyde said she was at Lime Kiln State Park with Allison Engle and Monika Wieland — the latter two are naturalists on the Western Prince — when the whales went by at about 1-1:30 p.m.
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. L113 was born sometime between Sept. 20 and Oct. 10. J45 was born in February.
— See more of Jeanne Hyde's orca photos at HER BLOG.