35,000 Walruses Come Ashore in Alaska Due to Lack of Sea Ice

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The brown patch, on the photo below, is a congregation of an estimated 35,000 walruses that came ashore on a beach near Point Lay, an Inupiat Eskimo village, 300 miles southwest of Barrow and 700 miles northwest of Anchorage, in northwest Alaska. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, these animals are now coming ashore in record numbers as they couldn’t find sea ice to rest on in the Arctic.

Pacific walruses spend their winters in the Bering Sea. Although they are good swimmers, they cannot swim indefinitely and would occasionally haul themselves out of the sea and rest on chunks of sea ice floating in the Arctic waters. Females give birth on sea ice and use ice as a diving platform to hunt for snails, clams and worms on the shallow continental shelf. As temperatures rise in summer, the edge of the sea ice recedes north. Females and their young ride the edge of the sea ice into the Chukchi Sea, the body of water north of the Bering Strait.

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Photo credit: NOAA / AP Photo

In recent years, sea ice has receded far north beyond the shallow continental shelf waters and into Arctic Ocean water, where depths exceed two miles and walrus cannot dive to the bottom. With the ice far away, walruses are now collecting on beaches rather than on ice, like they should have. The animals are also forced to abandoned their summer residence on the once frozen Chukchi Sea and are crowding the coast of Alaska.

The phenomenon was first spotted on the US side of the Chukchi Sea in 2007. They returned in 2009, and in 2011 scientists estimated 30,000 walruses appeared along a half-mile stretch of beach near Point Lay. Walruses had also been gathering in large groups on the Russian side of the Chukchi Sea.

“It’s another remarkable sign of the dramatic environmental conditions changing as the result of sea ice loss,” said Margaret Williams, managing director of the group’s Arctic program. “The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic, and that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change.”

Once the walruses gather on the beach, the young ones become vulnerable to stampedes. Stampedes can be triggered by a polar bear, human hunter or low-flying airplane. In September 2009 at Alaska’s Icy Cape, the carcasses of more than 130 mostly young walrus were counted after a stampede.

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Photo credit: NOAA / AP Photo

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Approximately 10,000 walruses were observed hauled out on land slightly north of Point Lay, on 19 August 2011. Photo credit: Rebecca Shea

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Approximately 10,000 walruses were observed hauled out on land slightly north of Point Lay, on 19 August 2011. Photo credit: Rebecca Shea

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Photo credit

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Photo credit: NOAA / AP Photo

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Photo credit: NOAA / AP Photo

via The Guardian

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5 comments:

  1. They should migrate to the antarctic where sea ice just hit a new maximum. Apparently global warming hasn't made it that far south.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That comment is way too stupid. It must be sarcasm.
      If it's not, oh dear.

      Delete
    2. There are so many dumb things in these two sentences that it must be sarcasm. If it's not, oh dear.

      Delete
  2. Try doing a little reading up on the situation before you show your ignorance.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Our planet is a giant heat pump constantly moving warm air and water to the poles. A 1 degree rise at the equator results in a 12 degree rise at the poles.

    ReplyDelete

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