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Southern Resident orca pod appears to have welcomed a new calf

A YouTube video shows what appears to be a "very young calf" associating with K20. The calf would be the first viable baby born to the pod since 2011.

PACIFIC CITY, Ore. — A new Southern Resident killer whale calf may have been born into the K pod for the first time in 11 years, according to the Center for Whale Research

A video posted to YouTube shows what appears to be a "very young calf" near K20, otherwise known as Spock, off the coast of Pacific City, Ore. The calf would be the first viable baby born into the K pod since 2011 when K44 was born. 

Researchers plan to document the calf during a photographic survey so they can assess its health, confirm the identity of its mother and assign it an alphanumeric designation, according to the Center for Whale Research. 

"The mortality rate for young calves is very high, but we are pulling for this little whale and hope to see it soon," the organization wrote on Facebook.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) welcomed the sighting of a potential new calf and underscored the importance of advancing protections for Southern Resident killer whales, which have been listed as endangered since 2005.

Declining prey populations, contaminants in the ocean and disturbances from noise and vessel traffic all contribute to the decline of the Southern Resident killer whale population, according to the WDFW. Boaters are advised to stay out of the path of orcas, at least 400 yards in front of or behind them and 300 yards on either side.

The K pod is the smallest of the three Southern Resident killer whale pods with only 17 members. The L pod has 33 members and the J pod has 24. There are estimated to be 74 whales in the entire Southern Resident orca population.

The J pod was spotted with a new calf in early March, which was the first new addition to that pod since September of 2020.