Newborn orca J50 spotted swimming with JPod family in Puget Sound
U.S. whale watcher Alisa Lemire Brookes captures encounter in 3-minute YouTube video
Newborn female orca calf J50 was captured on video Saturday swimming with her JPod family in Puget Sound, Washington.
The Orca Network confirmed the sighting the same day in a post to its Facebook Page.
In the video taken from Richmond Beach and Edmonds, Wash., J50 is seen tucked right in behind J16, believed to be the calf's grandmother. Occasionally during the three minute recording, she strikes out on her own, but not very often and never strays too far away.
The whales were swimming northward when the video was taken.
J50 is a welcome addition to JPod, an endangered local group of resident orcas whose numbers are at historic lows. J50 brings the population to 78.
Ken Balcomb of the Centre for Whale Research says J16 may have acted like a midwife, assisting with the birth of J50.
Bite marks on the calf have led researchers to believe another whale may have gently pulled at the calf during delivery. J36, 16 years old, is likely the calf’s mother, he said, although the issue is still being studied.
The local resident orca population suffered a major blow when pregnant J32 died in early December. She was found floating in the tide near Comox, B.C. A necropsy confirmed she died of infection with a previously deceased near-term fetus in her womb.
Due to the high mortality rate of orca calves, researchers avoid naming them until they are one year old, but one American news outlet has already dubbed J50 "Wiggles."
Balcomb said now that J50 has survived for nearly three weeks, he's hopeful.