10,000-Strong Walrus Army Storm Alaska Shore As Sea Ice Melts

A gathering of 10,000 walruses seemingly marched ashore onto Alaska’s northwest coast last week to escape global warming effects.

Scientists at the National Marine Fisheries Services say that the large numbers of walrus would normally rest and eat on sea ice, but the continuing threat of global warming has caused the ice to melt at alarming rates.

“Large walrus haulouts along the Alaskan coasts in the northeastern Chukchi Sea are a relatively new phenomenon,” Megan Ferguson, marine mammal scientist with NOAA Fisheries said.

With global temperatures on the rise over the past decade, the walrus have been forced to come ashore more frequently.

The walruses usually use sea ice habitat offshore in the northern Chukchi Sea as resting platforms in between dives to the bottom of the shallow Chukchi Sea, where they rest and eat, according to NOAA Fisheries. But because of the loss of ice in these offshore areas, the walruses are using beaches for resting, or “hauling out.”

In 2011, scientists estimated 30,000 walruses were hauled out along the beach near the village of Point Lay. More gray whale calves have been seen in the Chukchi Sea as well, NOAA Fisheries said in a statement on their website.

As of September 2012, sea ice reached its lowest square area since measurements began in 1979, according to Physics Today.  

These large walrus congregations have been tracked by scientists since 2007, with this most recent one beginning last week.

The loss of sea ice is especially dangerous for female walruses, who give birth on the sea ice.

Sources: NOAA Fisheries, Physics Today, Inquisitr, Daily News


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