New Orca Calf Born to L Pod

New Orca Calf Born to L Pod

kitsapsun.com

By Christopher Dunagan
Thursday, October 15, 2009

A newborn killer whale has been born to L pod, orca researchers have confirmed. This photo was taken off Port Townsend Saturday by Jami Nagel of Island Adventures. The orca’s mother is presumed to be L-94, a 14-year-old female named Calypso who is swimming alongside.   (Photo by Jami Nagel, Island Adventures)A newborn killer whale has been born to L pod, orca researchers have confirmed. This photo was taken off Port Townsend Saturday by Jami Nagel of Island Adventures. The orca’s mother is presumed to be L-94, a 14-year-old female named Calypso who is swimming alongside. (Photo by Jami Nagel, Island Adventures)

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A new baby orca has been born into L pod, the largest of the three groups of killer whales that frequent Puget Sound.

The calf’s arrival coincides with the time of year when the whales generally move south out of the San Juan Islands to hunt for chum salmon in Central and South Puget Sound.

Jami Nagel, a naturalist for Island Adventures, captured a picture of the new calf off Point Wilson near Port Townsend on Saturday, as the pod of whales headed into Puget Sound.

The Center for Whale Research has confirmed that the calf has never been seen before. Experts have assigned the calf the number L-113, the next available number in sequence. Having only two pictures, center biologists have not identified the mother.

“During the time we were on the scene, the calf was with L-94 the whole time,” said Nagel. “I would think that would be the mom, but sometimes they baby-sit for each other.”

L-94, a 14-year-old female named Calypso, is the younger sister of L-77, a 22-year-old female named Matia. The older sibling has been watching out for Calypso the past few years. Neither have had a calf before, as far as anyone knows.

If it is a first-born, chances are increased that it will not survive past its first birthday, compared to a female’s later offspring, experts say. That is because females “offload” high levels of toxic chemicals to their first-born, both in the womb and in their milk.

The latest birth brings the number of Puget Sound killer whales, known as Southern Residents, to 86 — an increase of three over the past year.

Following the Port Townsend sighting, one or more groups of killer whales were sighted Sunday near Fox Island in South Puget Sound, then in Colvos Passage in South Kitsap, then off Bainbridge Island headed north. Early Monday morning, orca calls were heard on a hydrophone off Port Townsend, where they presumably were heading out to the ocean through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, according to Susan Berta of Orca Network.

“We’re hoping they’ll come back in so we can get another look at the calf,” Berta said. “Sometimes in winter, they’ll make their first jaunt out and then come back in.”

The departure of all three pods from the San Juan Islands comes about two weeks later than last year — a year in which they spent little time in Central and South Puget Sound. Other years, they have been known to make frequent trips south before leaving inland waters until about June.

“We should see them at least once or twice more going by here,” said Ken Balcomb, speaking from the Center for Whale Research, where he has kept track of the orca families and their movements for 35 years. “In some falls, they stay around for awhile. Obviously, they are not in the Sound now.”

Anyone who spots killer whales is asked to contact Orca Network by e-mail, info@orcanetwork.org, or call toll-free, (360) 678-3451.

For a discussion about water-related issues, check out the blog Watching Our Water Ways at kitsapsun.com.

E.W. Scripps Co.
© 2007 Kitsap Sun

~ by fredfelleman on October 20, 2009.

One Response to “New Orca Calf Born to L Pod”

  1. Oh wow! This pod is related to Lolita the captive orca at Miami Sea Aquarium. (I hate that place;they’re so cruel to Lolita and the others in their tiny pools) Apparently the L – Pod is where Lolita came from. Her mother is still alive and called L25.(possibly, according to a test) Please try and get a picture of the mother, if not no worries. Thankyou.

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