A baby orca spotted Monday in J Pod is the fourth birth in three months — sparking talk of a mini baby boom in the population of endangered southern resident orcas.
Naturalist and researcher Jeanne Hyde was on board the boat with Capt. Spencer Domico watching J16 swimming with her three-month-old calf J50.
"We were assuming we had only the J16s," Hyde said. "And as they passed in front of the boat, I saw a small calf surfacing next to J16 and said, 'There's the baby.'
"But then J50 surfaced behind all the rest. That's when I told Spencer, 'I think there are two calves!'"
Michael Harris, the executive director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, said it's a good sign.
"J Pod is certainly doing all it can to rebuild the ranks," he said.
Scientists say there are now three calves in J Pod and another in L Pod.
The southern resident population is made up of three pods — J, K and L — and the latest birth brings the total population to 81 for the rare orcas.
"The southern residents are a long way from being out of the woods — these calves, too — but this is great news," Harris said.