L86, nicknamed “Surprise!” with her new calf, L125. If the calf survives, it would bring the population of the endangered Southern Resident orcas up to 75. (Dave Ellifrit/Center for Whale Research)

L86, nicknamed “Surprise!” with her new calf, L125. If the calf survives, it would bring the population of the endangered Southern Resident orcas up to 75. (Dave Ellifrit/Center for Whale Research)

Calf born to endangered Southern Resident orcas

New arrival appears to be filling out and ‘perfectly normal’

Compiled by Peninsula Daily News

FRIDAY HARBOR — Whale researchers say another calf has been born to the endangered Southern Resident orcas of the Salish Sea.

The orca known as L86, or by the nickname “Surprise!” for her own surprise birth in 1991, was seen with a new calf on Wednesday, the Center for Whale Research (CWR) said on its website at whaleresearch.com.

Dave Ellifrit of CWR captured images that show the new calf, L125, with fetal folds, indicating a relatively recent birth.

“It is nicely filled out and appears to be a perfectly normal little calf,” Ellifrit said, according to the website.

Drs. John Durban and Holly Fernbach captured drone photographs of L125 and, given its size, estimate it to be 1 to 1½ months old. The gender of the calf is not yet known.

All three pods — the J, K and L — were seen together heading up Haro Strait between San Juan and Vancouver islands, a rare occurrence, just after the birth.

If it survives, L125 will boost the Southern Resident population to 75.

Approximately 40 percent of newborn calves do not survive their neonatal first few weeks, according to the Canadian Press.

The mother, L86, had two calves that did not survive — L112 was killed by blunt force trauma during military exercises in 2012 while L120 died the year of its arrival in 2014, and the new baby has one brother, L106, born in 2005.

L125 is the first calf born into L pod since January 2019, when L77 gave birth to L124.

The last time the Center for Whale Research encountered Southern Resident orcas in the Salish Sea was Jan. 20, when they encountered J and K pods.

Two calves were born to J pod in September. The organization said they seemed to be doing well.

________

Information was compiled from the Center for Whale Research, The Associated Press and the Canadian Press.

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