Center for Whale Research has made the official determination that Slick, J16, is indeed the mother of new Southern Resident Killer Whale Calf J50 according to WDC's Collen Weiler.
Photo by Mark Malleson, Center for Whale Research
The new calf, first spotted December 30 with Slick, brings new hope to the dwindling population of Southern Resident Killer Whales. With the loss of four this year, the new baby brings the population up to only 78.
Following another encounter, the new calf was confirmed to be a female on January 7, yet the calf's mother became a mystery. Although researchers initially thought that Slick was the calf's mother, after further observation from photos Ken Balcomb noticed rake marks on the calf's dorsal fin indicating a difficult birth.
At that time, the possibility arose that Slick's daughter, Alki J-36, could potentially be the calves mother. It is not unusual for a grandmother to act as a midwife in the social Southern Resident population. Alki was not seen in the immediate area when the calf was first spotted, but at 16-years old she has approached prime breeding age. Slick, at 42- years old, is the oldest to give birth in four decades.
According to Center for Whale Research's latest encounter on January 19:
The new calf J50 looked healthy and energetic. She is still a bit beat up but her scratches seem to be healing and she has filled out some since our first encounter with her. J50 was traveling next to J16 for most of the encounter with J42 often nearby too. While all the J16's traveled together, J36 was consistently the farthest of the group from J50 so whatever doubts remained about J16 being the mother are about gone.