Conservationists say they are heartened by the discovery of another newborn orca in a pod of animals in the waters of the Puget Sound in Washington.
A calf designated J53 has been seen swimming with its mother as part of the J pod of orcas, one of three resident orca pods in the sound, the Center for Whale Research announced Oct. 24.
It is the third calf observed in the pod this year and brings the combined populations of the J, K and L pods in Puget Sound to a healthy 83 documented orcas, the group said on its Facebook page.
It's the sixth baby born to Puget Sound's three orca pods since last December in what Pacific Whale Watch Association Executive Director Michael Harris is calling a "class of 2015" baby boom.
And there could be more, he says, explaining that drone surveillance of the orca pods showed all the adults to be in good health, well-fed and sleek, and those images suggested several of them appeared to be pregnant.
Conservationists say the sighting of orca pregnancies raises hopes that the population of the Southern Resident orcas, which lives in the waters of Washington and British Columbia, is finally turning the corner.
In 2005 that population of orcas was placed on the United States Endangered Species list.
The population is also listed as endangered by Canada under its Species at Risk Act.
Orcas, sometimes called killer whales, live in every ocean on the globe from the Arctic to the Antarctic.
The highly social creatures live in large groups, or pods, and are routinely observed using sophisticated, cooperative hunting techniques and communicating with complex vocal behaviors.