A calf has been born to mother orca K20, the first baby for the K pod family of southern resident orcas in 11 years.
Deborah Giles, science and research director for the nonprofit Wild Orca, confirmed the birth Monday. The baby’s sex is not known.
“It is so exciting, I am so hopeful for her,” Giles said of the mother, also known as Spock. “For it to be a female would be ideal,” she said of the baby. “But anybody in K pod is just so special and hopeful.”
Recent births among the southern residents have skewed heavily male.
The baby was first spotted by a fisherman off the Oregon coast on April 28, Giles said. He sent video of the orcas to Giles to identify and she said she was delighted to see a tiny baby amid the pod.
Both K and L pods have been seen in recent days off the Oregon coast.
L25, the oldest of all the southern residents, believed to have been born in about 1930, was seen with her family, and still looking good, Giles said.
This is the second birth to the southern residents so far this year. J pod saw the birth of J59 this winter.
With the newest birth, the population of endangered southern residents is now 75 — if an L pod whale that so far has not been seen this year, L89, turns up.
The southern residents are struggling to survive at least three threats: lack of adequate Chinook salmon in their foraging range, pollution and underwater noise that makes it harder for them to hunt.