Talia Goodyear and Lea Vanderwiel were aboard the Orca Spirit Adventures earlier this week when they suspect a pregnant Southern Resident killer whale was nearby and giving birth to her newborn calf.
“It was an emotional time as we processed what was happening in front of us,” Vanderwiel said in a statement Friday (Sept. 25).
“It took a few minutes to realize what was actually happening, but then it was pure excitement realizing that it was a birth and the baby was very alive and boisterous.”
Upon receiving photographs from the Pacific Whale Watch Association on Thursday, the Center for Whale Research has since confirmed the calf’s mother is J41.
One of the center’s field staffers, Mark Malleson, was able to see the whales – known as J Pod – near Sheringham Point off of Vancouver Island later on Thursday evening as they foraged for fish, but was unable to spot the calf himself.
In a statement, the research center said they will eagerly await to observe the calf in order to evaluate its health and hopefully determine its sex.
“We will reserve its alpha-numeric designation until it proves to be healthy when the pod returns to Salish Sea waters,” the center said, adding that about 40 per cent of newborn calves do not survive their neonatal first few weeks.
This marks the second calf to be born this month. In recent years, the number of Southern Resident killer whales have dwindled to just less than 80, sparking ample concern from coastal researchers on both sides of the border.
Sometimes, it can take biologists and experts quite some time to confirm the sex of a calf, because they have to be able to see the underbelly of the whale.
Just earlier this week, the center was able to confirm another calf, now named J57, was a male. It was born on Sept. 4, is the viable second male calf born to J35, or Tahlequah.
This newest calf – which hasn’t yet been named – is the second calf birthed by J41, following the birth of J51 in 2010. J41 is believed to be roughly 15 years old.
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