Endangered B.C. killer whales in midst of baby boom

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Image: Dave Ellifrit

Endangered killer whales in B.C. are having lots of babies – in fact, they’re experiencing a bit of a boom, according to the Centre for Whale Research.

Not since 1977 have as many baby killer whales existed off the coast of British Columbia. With the birth of a brand new baby whale by a twenty-two year old female dubbed “J28” by marine scientists, the number of babies has climbed to eight since last December.

Image: Dave Ellifrit

Image: Dave Ellifrit

The total population of endangered killer whales in the region has climbed to 84. Up to nine babies a year can be produced, but a high neonatal and perinatal mortality rate means only about three per year survive.

In years of poor salmon runs, the mortality rate among all ages is often higher.

Image: Dave Ellifrit

Image: Dave Ellifrit

The new baby called J54 was first spotted on December 1 near the San Juan Islands by several whale watchers. The baby is estimated to be two and a half to three weeks old, and is likely heading for the Strait of Georgia with her mother and their pod.

The Centre for Whale Research said the survival of the babies and the entire pod depends on Chinook salmon runs in the eastern North Pacific Ocean ecosystem. With climate change threatening salmon runs, it could mean bad news for whale populations, in spite of the influx of calves.

Image: Dave Ellifrit

Image: Dave Ellifrit

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Lauren Sundstrom Lauren is a Staff Writer and Projects Assistant at Vancity Buzz. She is a graduate of BCIT's Broadcast and Online Journalism program. She loves reporting on breaking news and lifestyle content. If you feel like you have a story that needs to be told, fire her a tweet.
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