Newborn orca is missing and presumed dead, research center says

FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash. -- The Center for Whale Research said Monday night it has confirmed that baby orca L120, only about seven weeks old and the third known offspring of a 23-year old Southern Resident orca known as L86, is missing and presumed dead.

The baby was not with his or her mother when she and other members of L pod were photographed recently in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the center said.

Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research said, "L86 was seen and photographed on Friday, Saturday, and Monday, all without L120."

L120 was the first newborn Southern Resident offspring seen since August 2012, the center said. In February of that year, the body of L86's second offspring, 3-year old female L112, washed up at Long Beach, Wash. with indications of death by severe acoustic trauma, it said.

Now down to only 78 members, the Southern Resident orca community is at or below their numbers in 2001 when alarms rang and they were listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2005.