Researchers from the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island had the chance observe J pod of the Southern Residents today as they moved back into inland waters after spending a couple weeks out near the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They were able to check in on J50, the youngster first spotted in late December of 2014, and also saw another new baby, estimated to be about a week old, swimming with J pod.
The mother appears to be 36-year-old J19 (Shachi), and this new little one (designated J51) was seen swimming with Mom and sister J41 (Eclipse). Although the new babies cannot officially be added to the population tally until they’ve survived their first year, counting these young ones brings the total Southern Resident population up to 79 members (80 if we also include the recently officially added Lolita).
The Southern Residents have had a tumultuous year of births and deaths, with the total count going up and down but hovering at or just below 80 members – which is still eight fewer than when they were declared endangered in 2005. As the Center for Whale Research states in their official press release announcing J51: “That number can change anytime with the birth or death of one of these charismatic whales.” For a population so small, these minute fluctuations in number can have a huge impact, and can mean recovery or doom for this community.
But these two new babies are a beacon of hope for the Southern Residents, and are sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face – let them bring one to yours in this video by San Juan Island photographer and naturalist Traci Walter.
Help WDC protect this critically endangered population: sign our letter of support for the removal of the Klamath River dams, helping the Klamath salmon population recover and giving these whales an abundant and reliable food source. Let’s make sure J50 and J51 grow up healthy, strong, and well-fed!
Images courtesy Traci Walter Photography.