Wall of walrus: 35,000 come ashore in Alaska Some 1500 walrus gather on the northwest coast of Alaska (- AP photos)
Wall of walrus: 35,000 come ashore in Alaska
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What's the plural of walrus? Walrus.

Pacific walrus that can't find sea ice for resting in Arctic waters are coming ashore in record numbers on a beach in northwest Alaska.

An estimated 35,000 walrus were photographed Saturday about 5 miles north of Point Lay, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Point Lay is an Inupiat Eskimo village 700 miles northwest of Anchorage, Alaska.

The enormous gathering was spotted during NOAA's annual arctic marine mammal aerial survey.

Andrea Medeiros, spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said walrus were first spotted Sept. 13. They have been moving on and off shore. Observers last week saw about 50 carcasses on the beach from animals that may have been killed in a stampede. The agency was assembling a team to determine their cause of death.

The gathering of walrus on shore is a phenomenon that has accompanied the loss of summer sea ice as the climate has warmed.

Pacific walrus spend winters in the Bering Sea. Females give birth on sea ice. They use ice as a diving platform to reach snails, clams and worms on the shallow continental shelf.

Unlike seals, walrus cannot swim indefinitely and must rest. They use their tusks to pull themselves onto ice or rocks.

As temperatures warm 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. That's the body of water north of the Bering Strait.

In recent years, sea ice has receded north into Arctic Ocean water. Depths there exceed 2 miles and walrus cannot dive to the bottom.

Walrus in large numbers were first spotted on the U.S. side of the Chukchi Sea in 2007. They returned in 2009. In 2011, scientists estimated 30,000 walruses along 1 kilometer of beach near Point Lay.

Critical thinking challenge: Why are scientists seeing this phenomenon now, instead of a couple months ago?

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COMMENTS (112)
  • Bergin622
    10/07/2014 - 01:11 p.m.

    Wow. How sad. I guess global warming and longer summers are really affecting the lives of many animals that use sea ice like Walrus. Based on the picture there must be hundreds of Walrus stranded. It is crazy how the use sea ice for breeding and resting and a platform to dive off to get food. What will happen next? I hope environmentalists can fix this problem.

  • kcs4802
    10/07/2014 - 01:26 p.m.

    I'm amazed on how many walruses came to shore on this beach. If I were there, I'd stay back because walrus are pretty aggressive and I don't want a tusk in my arm. This goes to show that these marine animals are losing their habitats because of global warming and scientists should step in and take action. This is cool, but sensitive for these walrus.

  • kcs4802
    10/07/2014 - 01:26 p.m.

    I'm amazed on how many walruses came to shore on this beach. If I were there, I'd stay back because walrus are pretty aggressive and I don't want a tusk in my arm. This goes to show that these marine animals are losing their habitats because of global warming and scientists should step in and take action. This is cool, but sensitive for these walrus.

  • Maddude7
    10/07/2014 - 01:46 p.m.

    That is really cool to see but I think its bad that all of their icecaps are melting so they now have to move onto shore.

  • jake222444
    10/07/2014 - 01:47 p.m.

    This is an excellent example of animals adapting to their environment as the climate changes. As global warming melts sea ice, walruses and other animals that rely on sea ice come ashore on solid ground. This does, however, bring up new problems, such as predators, including people. We as people will also have to adapt to our new habitat as creatures adapt to their new habitat.

  • trowelknight
    10/07/2014 - 01:47 p.m.

    So many walrus! In fact too many walrus! If the ice caps are melting, then most of these walrus will die! No one wants a dead walrus.

  • Kareena143
    10/07/2014 - 02:10 p.m.

    Wow. I agree with the writers of this article, this is such a natural phenomenon! Thousands of walrus all gathered in the same place, how do they know where to go? What will they do if the ice is all melted? I worry for these walrus yet I praise them for their brains, such smart creatures facing such tough problems.

  • Charleechacha
    10/07/2014 - 02:13 p.m.

    I think, that this whole thing is very sad! These walruses are stranded in a different environment than they are use to. Instead of being in the icy waters and suntanning on icebergs, they are stranded on a hill of dirt in Alaska.Not only this, but they are not structurally made to move on dirt. I don't know if this is because of global warming, and they are trying to find colder areas, but no matter what we need to help them.

  • Luca2002
    10/07/2014 - 02:17 p.m.

    I was interesting to find out that 35,000 walrus are on shore in Alaska. There was 50 people dead from walrus attacks. In 2011 there were 30,000 walrus near Point Lay.

  • Ella12
    10/07/2014 - 02:18 p.m.

    I feel that this article is interesting because it is very shocking how 35,000 walrus could come ashore. If it were a smaller number it would be understandable because animals get caught on the shore all of the time, but 35,000 is very unusual. Also, I never knew that seals don't need to rest. Unlike seals, walrus need to take rests on ice and get on the ice or rocks by using their tusks to pull them up. Also, as the warm weather increases, the less ice their is for animals like the walrus to thrive or rest in the ice. In conclusion, I believe that this article was a fascinating story and are waiting to hear what happens next for the walrus.

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