Researchers working to confirm sighting of first K pod orca calf in a decade
Researchers in Washington state are working to confirm whether a new baby orca has been born to the K pod of southern resident killer whales, an endangered species whose numbers have dwindled in recent years.
If confirmed, the new calf would be the first "viable baby" born into K pod since 2011, according to the Center for Whale Research.
Video of a reported sighting of the new calf off Pacific City, Ore., was uploaded to YouTube on April 28.
The Center for Whale Research says the video appears to show a "very young calf" associating with orca K20.
Also known as "Spock," K20 was thought to be a male until December 2004, when she gave birth to her first offspring, K38, according to the Washington-based non-profit The Whale Museum.
The Center for Whale Research "plans to document the calf during our photographic surveys so that we can assess its health, confirm the identity of its mother, and assign it an alphanumeric designation," it said in a statement.
"The mortality rate for young calves is very high, but we are pulling for this little whale and hope to see it soon," the group added.
K pod is the smallest of the three orca pods that make up the southern resident killer whales, according to Victoria whale-watching guides Orca Spirit Adventures.
The sighting of the potential new southern resident calf comes as the federal government renewed its protections of the endangered species for a fourth year.
Ottawa announced on April 29 it would bring back restrictions on vessel speeds near Swiftsure Bank off Vancouver Island between June 1 and Nov. 30.
In addition, the government says it has renewed an agreement with whale-watching and ecotourism groups to not offer or promote tours focused on the southern resident killer whales.