February 28th, 2024

Christmas calf born to southern residents orca is missing, presumed dead

By The Canadian Press on January 30, 2024.

An orca calf known as J60 is seen swimming with the J pod of endangered southern resident orcas in Washington state's Puget Sound in this handout image from Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2023. J60 is now missing and presumed dead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Center for Whale Research-Maya Sears **MANDATORY CREDIT**

Researchers say an orca calf that was born to J pod of the endangered southern resident killer whales off the British Columbia and Washington state coasts is missing and presumed dead.

The U.S.-based Centre for Whale Research says the calf known as J60 was absent from the pod during a photo survey on Saturday.

It says in a statement issued Monday that given the calf’s young age, it’s “extremely unlikely” J60 was swimming alone during two hours of observation and is “likely deceased.”

The birth of the calf, whose gender was unknown, had been cause for celebration when the centre announced it had been first spotted in Washington state’s Puget Sound on Dec. 26.

Before the calf’s birth, an annual census by the Center for Whale Research had put the southern resident population at 75 last year, including 25 in J pod.

Salmon-eating southern resident killer whales live in and around the Salish Sea off B.C. and Washington in three pods known as J, K and L.

The centre says the mortality rate for young southern resident calves is very high.

“This is due both to the generally poor nutritional status of southern residents, and the transfer of toxins from mother to calf during gestation and lactation,” it said.

“The southern residents need abundant, large Chinook salmon if they are going to be able to raise their calves to maturity, and keep the population going.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2024.

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