Researchers say new southern resident orca calf is female as full pod returns to B.C. waters

A full pod of southern resident killer whales has returned to the waters of British Columbia, where researchers have determined that a new baby in the group is a female.

Researchers with the Washington state-based Orca Behavior Institute and the Center for Whale Research both reported sightings of the new calf Thursday.

The calf was born to J pod in late February or early March.

J pod consists of 25 orcas, including the new calf, and all were present Thursday in the waters west of San Juan Island, Wash., according to researchers.

"The whales were very social, with lots of rolling both under and at the surface," the Center for Whale Research said in a statement about the encounter.

"The team managed to capture photographs and drone video of the ventral side of the pod’s youngest member, J59. From this, the team was able to determine that J59 is a female."

The centre says a female birth is good news for the southern resident orcas as the endangered population's growth is limited by the number of reproductive-age females in the group.

"While one calf won’t save the population, we hope that J59 can grow to adulthood and contribute to future generations of southern residents," the centre said.

The calf's mother, known as J37 or "Hy'Shqa," was born in 2001.