Above you will find a picture of a brand-new baby killer whale. See that little guy? I know, I think it's a very charming photo, too. Anyway … thanks for reading washingtonpost.com. Have a great afternoon!




Oh, jeez. You wanted me to actually write something about this baby whale? Really? Because this is the Internet and I feel like it was kind of invented for posting pictures of baby animals and then ju— [Editor's note: Sarah.] OK FINE.

Well, I can tell you that this particular baby killer whale was spotted in late December in waters off the coast of Washington state. It's only a few days old, and it's already a pretty big deal!

The newborn endangered orca, which I am calling Pucky but is really called J50 until further notice, was discovered while researchers were tracking an adult male killer whale that had been satellite-tagged, Ken Balcomb, a senior scientist at the Center for Whale Research, told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

"Oh, it'll get a cool name if it survives," Balcomb said. "'Miracle' is the name that's already been used, but that was 30 years ago. Maybe we can do it again."

Sightings like this are rare. According to NOAA, about 35 percent to 45 percent of newborn orcas die before the age of 1, Live Science noted. If Pucky J50 lives, it will be "the first successful newborn in the Puget Sound population in about two and a half years," Live Science reports. Another baby whale was spotted in September, Balcomb said, but it didn't survive.

The whale's birth is encouraging news for the pod, which lost a pregnant female earlier in December. The 19-year-old female whale named J-32 died somewhere in the Strait of Georgia before scientists hauled her ashore to perform a necropsy. Balcomb and others determined that the whale's fetus had died and a resulting bacterial infection killed the mother.
"The loss of J-32 was a disturbing setback," Brad Hanson, a wildlife biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told Live Science. "We lost a lot of reproductive potential."

Balcomb said there were noticeable marks on the baby's dorsal fin and back, which could indicate another whale assisted in its delivery. The baby orca was first spotted with another female who is in her early 40s — a little old to have a newborn. But the baby might be a grandchild, Balcomb said, and a female whale could have helped during the birth.

"We're going to take every opportunity to get out and see if it's still doing well," Balcomb said. "And if it is a teenage mother, she ought to be over trauma by now."

Here are a few more pictures of the baby whale, which Balcomb said crews are hoping to see again later this week: