A colourful baby orca, photographed by a Vancouver Island whale watching company, is attracting attention.
The family of orcas, identified as T46, was spotted on Nov. 25 and photographed by a naturalist onboard.
Eagle Wing Tours co-owner Brett Soberg says the whale’s yellowish-orange colouring isn’t unusual for a baby whale.
“It’s a very orangey, butterscotch kind of colour,” he says. “They’re on mom’s milk for six months to the better part of a year, and when they’re weaned off of mom’s milk, which is very fat-rich, the pigmentation starts to change.”
The spotting of the Bigg’s killer whale calf is welcome news to Erin Gless. The executive director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association is familiar with the yet-to-be-named calf.
T46 “Wake” was the last killer whale to be captured for the aquarium trade. “In 1976, they corralled her and her family up, and they kept her down in Washington State for a few weeks,” says Gless from her office in Anacortes, Washington. “Public outcry led to them releasing the family.”
T46 Wake’s lineage has produced 20 children and grandchildren, and now, an orange-tinted great-grandchild.
“It just goes to show the effect that one whale can have on the population,” says Gless.