After a few more weeks of observation, the Center for Whale Research (CWR) believes that J16, Slick, is indeed the mother of newest Southern Resident baby J50 – making Slick the oldest orca in this population known to give birth in more than 40 years of research. As an experienced mom, Slick is taking great care of little J50, who already looks a little bigger.
From the CWR: “J50 looked healthy and energetic… traveling next to J16 for most of the encounter… so whatever doubts remained about J16 being the mother are about gone.”
The newest Southern Resident will nurse for at least a year, staying close by Slick’s side and being looked after by her siblings and extended family. Resident orcas live in closely-knit family groups, and offspring stay with their mothers their entire lives, helping to take care of the next generations.
As a growing baby, J50 will need lots of milk and nutrients from Slick, who in turn will need a reliable and abundant food source so she can stay healthy and keep taking care of her new little one. Much of the Southern Residents’ way of life is transmitted through teaching and passing on knowledge – J50 will learn from her family where to travel and look for food, where to rest, where to play, what to eat, and what to avoid.
She will learn the timing of salmon runs, where to go to find large concentrations of Chinook, and how to find them in the open ocean when they’re not returning to rivers to spawn. Help us make sure this knowledge isn’t all for nothing – sign our letter of support for removing the Klamath River dams. Free-flowing rivers help salmon populations, a vital food source for Southern Residents. Abundant Chinook stocks will keep Slick healthy to nurse and care for J50, and make sure J50 survives well into adulthood to have her own babies and teach them everything she has learned from her family.