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New killer whale calf spotted with J pod on Boxing Day, researchers say


The endangered southern resident killer whales appear to have welcomed a new arrival this holiday season.

Researchers Maya and Mark Sears spotted an unfamiliar calf swimming with J pod off the coast of Washington State on Tuesday, according to the Center for Whale Research.

"The calf was primarily observed near adult female J40, who has not yet had a calf," the U.S.-based non-profit organization wrote on Facebook Wednesday.

"J40 seems to be the most likely mother, but we'll try to confirm this in subsequent encounters."

The calf wasn't with J pod during other recent encounters, according to the researchers, who suggested the orca was likely "just a few days old."

The animal's sex has not been determined.

"We hope to see lots more of this calf in the coming weeks and months, and that both the calf and its mother will be able to thrive," the Centre for Whale Research added.

The latest census of southern resident killer whales, conducted on July 1, counted 75 orcas across J, K and L pods.

According to researchers, the population declined throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, reaching a low of 71, as dozens of the mammals were captured for use in marine parks.

The southern residents surged during the 1980s and 1990s, when the population peaked at 98, but the trend has since reversed again as local killer whales have grappled with a variety of threats, including pollution and a decreasing supply of chinook salmon for feeding.

Back in June, the Center for Whale Researched announced another orca calf born to L pod, which marked the pod's first addition since 2021. Top Stories

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