Mother orca Tahlequah has had her baby.
The endangered southern resident killer whale, J35, touched hearts in the Pacific Northwest and around the world in August 2018 when she lost a calf that lived only a half-hour. She carried the calf for 17 days and 1,000 miles, refusing to let the calf go.
Every calf matters for the J, K and L pods in a population that has dwindled to 72 orcas, the lowest in more than 40 years.
The southern residents have recently returned to their summer home range of the San Juan Islands for several weeks.
Scientist Deborah Giles was on the water with all three pods Saturday with her scat-sniffing dog to collect fecal samples from the orcas for ongoing research by the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology.
“It was a fantastic day with members of all three pods,” she texted from her boat. “We were hugely successful, collecting 7 samples, our daily record for the year.
“The whales behaved much like we used to see them, socializing, with lots of amazing surface active behavior.”
This sort of behavior has become less common in recent years, as chinook salmon runs decline, and the orca families spread out to hunt and spend more time foraging than socializing.
Read the full article in The Seattle Times.