Researchers said on Tuesday that a baby orca born early last month in the Puget Sound might have died. If true, the death would be a sad blow to an already dwindling killer whale population.
L-120, as the baby is known, has not been seen with its pod since the population of endangered orcas returned recently to inland waters of western Washington.
Offshore for nearly ten days, the pod encountered a storm sometime last week, which might have caused fatal complications for the baby orca. According to Shari Tarantino, president of the board of directors at Orca Conservancy, baby killer whales are not typically without their mother for long periods of time.
“They generally stick right with its mother,” Tarantino said.
If L-120 is indeed gone, that would leave 78 orcas in the Puget Sound population, which was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2005.
Decades ago, the majestic black and white orca whales numbered over 140 in the Puget Sound. But in the 1970s when dozens of killer whales were captured for marine parks and aquariums, that number dropped to 71.
The whales continue to be an important symbol of the Pacific Northwest.