A scientist who tracks a group of endangered killer whales that frequent Puget Sound says he's spotted a second baby born to the pod in the past two months.
Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research confirmed the newborn orca in J-pod after it was spotted Thursday. He said the week-old calf, whose gender isn't yet known, appears healthy and is dubbed J51. "It's a good one," Balcomb told the Kitsap Sun.
The presumed mother is 36-year-old J19. Balcomb said two whales were seen swimming protectively alongside the baby. The addition joins J50, a baby spotted in late December. The two bring Puget Sound's southern resident orca population to 79, which is still dangerously low. A 19-year-old female from J-pod died in early December.
The southern resident orcas spend a lot of time in Washington state's Puget Sound and off the coast of British Columbia. They depend on salmon for food, while the ocean-roaming transient orcas hunt marine mammals such as seals. Scientists say the southern resident orcas suffer from malnutrition and chemical contamination from polluted waters.