July 18, 2011

Newest Addition to Southern Resident Community

We started seeing the dorsal fins of K pod after exiting the Speiden Channel and spotted Deadhead (K-27) with her new son (K-44). The boy is her first offspring and he will remain unnamed until after he has survived a winter and is officially considered part of the pod. Researchers do this because of the alarming fact that only around half of the calves survive the first year of life. The first-born calf has an even lower survival rate which is believed to be partially due to the large amount of toxins they receive through the milk. The organic toxin Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) is extremely concentrated in the orcas of the Salish Sea with the transients having the highest levels recorded in any marine mammal. PCBs are soluble in fats so they are found in high doses in the fat-rich milk of mothers. A female unloads a huge portion of the toxins she accumulated throughout her life onto her first child, with subsequent calves receiving much less of the chemicals. With hopeful thoughts of this little ones future, we watched him lobtail next to the cliffs and lighthouse of Stuart Island while the sun warmed the scene.

Kirsten, naturalist