It's a boy! New B.C. orca calf is 'healthy' male, researchers confirm

Orca calf J57, born in early September, is shown: (Sara Hysong-Shimazu/Maya's Legacy and the Pacific Whale Watch Association)

The newest southern resident killer whale calf to be born off B.C. has been confirmed as male, according to the Centre for Whale Research.

The calf, J57, was spotted with its mother, J35 – also known as Tahlequah, a southern resident orca that carried her dead calf across the ocean for 17 days in 2018 – near Point Roberts, WA, on Tuesday.

The research centre says J57 is a “feisty young boy” and was spotted “rolling, spyhopping, and swimming alongside his mother, who was actively foraging for food."

The orca calf is approximately three weeks old and has one brother, J47.

J47 was born in 2010, eight years before J35’s more recent calf died in 2018.

“For the southern resident killer whale community's population sustainability, it is preferred that new calves are female,” said the Centre for Whale Research in a release Wednesday.

“But regardless of gender, J57 is a very welcome addition. He is robust and appears healthy,” said the centre.

J57 was first discovered in the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sept. 5. He is believed to have been born a few days before that because his dorsal fin was upright, which researchers say takes at least 24 to 48 hours to occur after birth.

At the time, it was not known what gender he was.

Unlike other orcas, southern resident killer whales are especially endangered, with an estimated population of just 73 individuals.

Shortly after J57 was discovered, researchers said the birth was an emotional day for both people and the marine mammals.

“A beautiful day, lots of southern residents, and all of a sudden they get into these massive cuddle puddles and lots of social mixing,” said Kelley Balcomb-Bartok, spokesperson for the Pacific Whale Watch Association, the group that first spotted J57 on Sept. 5.

Should pet cats be allowed to roam free in Greater Victoria?

Contact Us

If you have a news tip, story idea or to reach a radio host, contact us here.