Lack of sea ice forces mass walrus haulout in Alaska | WWF

Lack of sea ice forces mass walrus haulout in Alaska

Posted on
22 August 2011
Following on from reports earlier this month that walruses were starting to haul out along the Alaskan shores of the Chukchi sea, observers have indicated that approximately 8,000 walrus had massed on land slightly north of Point Lay, Alaska, according to a report in the WWF US Climate Blog.

As can be seen from the photo to the right, two large walrus haulouts (estimated sizes 5000 and 3000 animals) were sighted during a survey flight of the Chukchi Offshore Monitoring in Drilling Area (COMIDA) marine mammal aerial survey project on August 17.

By August 7 this year, sea ice cover in the southern Chukchi Sea was already minimal and some radio-tagged walruses were beginning to haul-out on shore in Alaska, a forced migration that began three weeks earlier than observed last year.

The massive walrus haul-outs of 2010 began in the fourth week of August, with an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 walruses ultimately hauled-out on the Alaskan shoreline of the Chukchi Sea, mostly near Point Lay.

The long swim to shore, mostly by females and young walruses, poses risks for the animals; and they face further hardships onshore as they compete with large numbers of walruses for food and can be trampled by larger walruses.

Read the full post on the WWF US Climate Blog.

Two large walrus haulouts near Point Lay, Alaska.
© WWF / Blaine Thorn (National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)