It’s a boy: Endangered southern resident killer whale calf born around Christmas Day

It’s a boy: Endangered southern resident killer whale calf born around Christmas Day
Center for Whale Research/Maya Sears NMFS Permit 27052.
The baby orca is pictured.

Researchers are celebrating the birth of a critically endangered southern resident killer whale calf, which was born around Christmas Day.

The Center for Whale Research says the new calf, born into the J pod, was spotted on Dec. 26.

The calf was not seen with the pod as recently as Dec. 23, meaning the baby orca is only a few days old.

The orca calf, which researchers determined was a male on Thursday, was spotted swimming next to several J pod females, but primarily stayed close to J40, or “Suttles,” which has researchers thinking that J40 is likely the new calf’s mother.

If that is confirmed, it would mark the first child that J40 has had, according to researcher Dave Ellifrit with the CWR.

“We were hoping [J40] would have a calf because she’s 19 and due, kind of, but she wasn’t a whale that we noticed was obviously pregnant this fall, so she wasn’t the whale we were expecting to have a baby,” he told CHEK News Thursday.

He adds that another SRKW from the J pod, J46, appeared to be pregnant in the fall, “so what we’re hoping for is a two baby winter,” said Ellifrit.

Researchers at the CWR are hoping to see both the calf and mother thrive. Even though the new orca isn’t a female, “every little bit helps,” noted Ellifrit.

“It’s always a kind of hopeful tale because you never know what’s going to happen with these young calves,” he said. “The first year can be kind of rough on them and they don’t all make it but we’ll see, and J pod is full of help.”

He says J pod is a tight-knit unit and that all members tend to support each other, even if they are not directly related.

“If she needs help with someone looking after the calf for a moment or two, she’s got it,” said Ellifrit.

As of September 2022, there were an estimated 73 southern resident killer whales in B.C., according to the CWR.

Sightings of the endangered orca were also down this year, with 112 sightings recorded between January and early November, down from 193 sightings in 2022 and 121 in 2021.


Adam ChanAdam Chan

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