Various newspapers indicated « Tens of thousands of walruses crowded onto a sandy stretch of beach on Alaska’s northwest coast earlier this month as the animals were forced to swim to shore after the Arctic Sea ice they usually live on disappeared from the Chukchi Sea.
It’s a phenomenon that was unheard of five years ago and according to the WWF, Arctic sea ice is at the third lowest level in recorded history.
Anthony Fischbach, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, is trying to get a handle on what the dramatic change in behavior could mean for the species long-term. « I’m surprised by one thing, » he says. « Essentially all the animals here are adult females. » You’d expect to see about one in three with newborn yearling calves, he says. « I only see a small number of yearling calves, » Fischbach says. « That makes me wonder what’s happening with the calves. »
In the Chukchi Sea, the vast majority of walruses each summer are females who fatten up on clams that populate the seafloor. They need the protein to nurse their young and this is the time of year, when they should be foraging from the sea ice floating over the productive waters of the continental shelf. Instead, they’re stuck on land…more >>