An approximately 2-month-old female orca calf was found near Tofino, British Columbia just before Christmas Day last week. The immediate fear, of course, was that the calf was one of eight new babies born to the Southern Residents in the past year – a remarkable boom for the critically endangered population. These eight new calves are a sign of hope for the community, but those who work closely with the population fear for their future.
Thankfully, those new calves are still safe for the time being – experts have determined the orca who washed up was not one of the new Southern Resident calves. However, they are still unsure which population the baby belongs to, and are awaiting DNA results to confirm. Although we are glad to hear the eight new members of the Southern Resident community are still with us, the loss of a young calf is a sad event – especially a female calf, who can contribute so much to the future of her family.
A necropsy indicated the young calf had an infection, but the ultimate cause of death is still unknown. Lab results and DNA tests will take time to provide answers. Although the Southern Residents have been ruled out, the orca could be part of the Northern Resident community, Bigg’s or Offshore populations, all of which are listed as threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.