‘Impressive for this momma’: New killer whale calf spotted off Victoria coast

Click to play video: 'Several orca calves born in recent years'
Several orca calves born in recent years
WATCH: Several orca pods, both resident and transient, have welcomed new members over the past few years, including one spotted in December 2023. The orca calves were born to the T046B2A, 'L,' CA216, 'J,' 'K,' pods – Dec 6, 2023

Whale watchers are celebrating the birth of a new Bigg’s killer whale, recently spotted with a well-known adult female off the coast of Victoria.

Eagle Wing Tours captured the little Bigg’s swimming with T046B2A, also known as Akela, in the Juan de Fuca Strait on Nov. 26.

The Pacific Whale Watch Association is still working to confirm whether the pair are related. If so, director Erin Gless said the calf will be called T046B2B.

Click to play video: 'Record number of Bigg’s Killer Whale sightings in 2023'
Record number of Bigg’s Killer Whale sightings in 2023

“This would be Akela’s second calf. The first, T046B2A, was born in 2021,” she wrote in an emailed statement. “The gestation period (pregnancy length) for killer whales is about 15 to 17 months, so that’s impressive for this momma!”

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According to the association, orca calves are born orange but scientists aren’t sure why. Among the possible explanations are jaundice stemming from amniotic fluid or a thinner blubber layer that makes the blood vessels more visible.

Click to play video: 'Photos of deer swimming with orca stuns social media users'
Photos of deer swimming with orca stuns social media users

There are an estimated 400 Bigg’s killer whales in the coastal population, a much healthier number than its endangered cousin, the southern resident killer whale whose population is hovering around 74. The former eat mammals, including sea lions, seals and porpoises, while the latter feed exclusively on salmon.

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According to the Pacific Whale Watch Association and Orca Behavior Institute, 2023 was a banner year for the Bigg’s killer whale, with 1,270 unique sightings between January and the end of October. That’s compared with the previous record of 1,220 unique sightings set in 2022 — in 12 months, not 10.

Click to play video: 'Rare video shows orcas attacking adult gray whales'
Rare video shows orcas attacking adult gray whales

The Bigg’s are currently roaming the entire Salish Sea from the inland waters near Campbell River, south through the Strait of Georgia, to the San Juan Islands down into Puget Sound, towards Seattle, and west to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

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