Lack of ice forces 35 000 walruses onto Alaska shore

2014-10-02 08:08
Some 35 000 walrus gather on shore near Point Lay, Alaska. (File, AP)

Some 35 000 walrus gather on shore near Point Lay, Alaska. (File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Juneau - Fast-melting Arctic sea ice has forced at least 35 000 Pacific walruses to retreat to the Alaska shoreline, scientists from several federal agencies said on Wednesday.

Walruses are accomplished divers and frequently plunge hundreds of feet to the bottom of the continental shelf to feed. But they use sea ice as platforms to give birth, nurse their young and elude predators, and when it is scarce or non-existent they haul themselves up on land.

"One of the differences between this haul out and other ones is the sheer size and number of animals coming to shore," said US Geological Survey ecologist Chadwick Jay.

Such haul outs in areas of the Chukchi Sea, which polar bears also use as platforms for hunting, were first observed along Russia's coasts until Pacific walrus masses began appearing on Alaska's coastline in 2007, US scientists said.

Researchers monitoring these patterns estimate as many as 35 000 walruses came to shore near the coastal village of Point Lay, about 1 130km north of Anchorage at the weekend.

 The tusked beasts can be more than 3 metres long and weigh 1 225kg.

US Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Joel Garlich-Miller said the most pressing conservation concern with such a massive gathering is the possible mortality rate, caused largely by stampedes.

The ice dissipation was likely attributed to changes stemming from global climate change, Jay said.

The mass movement can be treacherous for younger walruses who can be trampled by a stampede triggered by aircraft or predators, such as grizzly bears and polar bears, Garlich-Miller said.

Fish and Wildlife estimates the Pacific walrus population as between 200 000 and 250 000 animals, though the exact number is unknown.

Read more on:    animals

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.