'A blessed event': Newborn orca spotted near B.C.'s Gulf Islands, gives hope for imperiled pod
Thursday, January 1, 2015, 4:47 PM - Whale watchers on the West Coast have discovered a newborn orca in the near British Columbia's Gulf Islands.
The killer whale calf was spotted alongside its mother off Pender Island on Tuesday.
The calf is part of the of the endangered pod that frequents Puget Sound and has been designated J-50.
A director of Orca Network in Washington state says if the calf survives, it will be the first successful birth in two-and-a-half years.
Howard Garrett calls it a blessed event.
The presumed mother is J-16, a 43-year-old that has had three surviving calves, said Center for Whale Research scientist Ken Balcomb.
The baby killer whale is estimated to be just a few days old and appeared to be healthy.
Southern resident killer whales are considered an endangered species, with just 78 in the waters of B.C. and Washington state.
In early December, a 19-year-old whale identified as J-32 and the full-term fetus it was carrying were found dead off the shores of Vancouver Island.
Another calf died about a month earlier.
Garrett says Tuesday's birth is giving new hope the dwindling population will rebound.
WATCH BELOW: Beluga whale taunts, plays with kids (AWESOME!)
With files from The Canadian Press