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Photo via Whale Research Center
Photo via Whale Research Center

Whale watchers in the Pacific Northwest might be getting the best orca season they’ve had in a while — a new baby orca, L122, has been spotted with the help of drones.

The NOAA Fisheries happily posted the new pics to Facebook yesterday, writing:

“We’re pleased to spread the news of a new calf in the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population! The calf, designated as L122, was spotted alongside mother L91 by NOAA scientists and colleagues in the waters near Sooke, British Columbia. L122 is the fifth new baby to come into the population since December 2014.”

We wrote about researchers using drones to safely track and capture pictures of orcas to advance their studies, especially regarding feeding patterns. A collaborative effort between the Vancouver Aquarium and NOAA is following both the northern and southern resident killer whales to track populations.

Drones help whale researchers in several ways: They don’t disturb the whales as they’re flown high above, can capture better images and are cheap to operate.

The new baby orca is the latest in a “baby boom” of sorts in the area, one we haven’t seen the likes of since 1977 when nine new baby orcas were born, according to the Center for Whale Research. As KOMO News reports below, L122 brings our local population up to 82. But, as they say, we’re still about 40 orcas short of a “robust population.”

Watch the full KOMO News report below:

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