Why is this baby orca orange?

CBC Kids News • Published 2019-06-10 07:00

And did you know that black bears can be white?

This baby killer whale (also called an orca) spotted off the coast of B.C. recently is getting a lot of attention.

It stands out from other orcas thanks to its small size and orange colouring.

“I’m going to guess it’s days old,” said Jennifer Steven, who runs a whale watching company and spotted the whale off Tofino in May.

“It’s so tiny. It looked so fresh.”

Three whales swim at the surface. One is very small and slightly orange.

There are several different species of killer whales. This baby is one of only about 75 resident killer whales. (John Forde and Jennifer Steven)

According to the B.C. Cetecean Sightings Network, most killer whale calves are born with a yellow or orange hue.

Within the first year, they take on the black and white colouring we usually see.

Endangered species

This orca is called a southern resident killer whale.

Its birth is important for the species, whose population is dwindling.

“Southern resident killer whales, their population is so small, so any birth is huge,” said Paul Cottrell, a marine mammal co-ordinator with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

What’s called black but can actually be white?

Another rare animal was spotted in Canada in May.

This time in the mountains of Alberta, amateur photographers took pictures of a white bear cub in the Kananaskis region.

A white black bear

White black bears are rare. (Submitted by Rafael Pernia)

But the cub is not a polar bear, it’s actually a black bear.

John Paczkowski, senior park ecologist in Kanasaskis, said there are a lot of black bears in the area and they come in many different colours.

“These white or very light-coloured bears are probably amongst the most rare in the region,” said Paczkowski.

Nissa Petterson, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wildlife Association, said the white coat is similar to blue eyes or red hair in people.

“Just like eye or hair colour can vary in people, black bears can range significantly in coat colour… Some even have patches of different colours in their coats,” said Petterson.

Three bears, one black, one brown and one white.

A family of black bears that come in all different colours. (Abdulla Moussa/Wild Moussa Photography)

Bears can be dangerous

This bear is two years old and recently came out of hibernation.

Because of that, Paczkowski said it’s important to give all bears space so they can find food without the chance of bear-human encounters.

“It’s still spring here out in the mountains, and the bears are desperately trying to get some calories, get some food,” he said.

With files from Sarah Reiger and Karin Larsen/CBC News

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