Walrus cam an Internet hit Walruses on a beach, recorded by a robotic camera on Round Island, Alaska (AP photo / Thinkstock)
Walrus cam an Internet hit

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A popular webcam showing large male Pacific walruses lying on the beach with a number of seabirds flying overhead is once again streaming to the Internet.

The high-definition stream from Alaska's remote Round Island had been dormant for nearly a decade after private funding ran out. But a version is back now, thanks to an organization that operates a series of nature webcams from around the planet. The walrus cam is part of the Pearls of the Planet series. It can be viewed at: http://explore.org/live-cams/player/walrus-cam-round-island.

A monetary grant from explore.org, along with other donations this year, had an unintended benefit for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The funds are allowing the Alaska state government struggling financially because of low oil prices to put two paid staff members on the island. It is located about 400 miles southwest of Anchorage. The staffers will not only welcome the handful of visitors it gets every year, but also to help prevent boats or aircraft from spooking the 2-ton walruses and sparking a stampede.

If the donation hadn't come through, Round Island would have been closed to visitors this year.

"It was just serendipity," said Charlie Annenberg Weingarten. He is the vice president of the Annenberg Foundation and founder of explore.org. "I would have done it anyway. But this is really a cherry on top, knowing we were able to assist them in furthering their research, their love of their work and be able to share with the people."

The state Department of Fish and Game worked with a private donor in 2005 to stream images from Round Island. It is part of the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary. The feed was sent over the Internet and featured at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, where it was widely popular with visitors. The center is another donor this year.

Operational problems with the camera and a lack of funding eventually doomed the project.

Maria Gladziszewski is the acting deputy director of Fish and Game's Division of Wildlife Conservation. She said the state had discussed looking for another partner. It wasn't an active search until explore.org added the brown bear cams from Alaska's Katmai National Park and Preserve.

"I thought, 'Gee, I wonder if they'd be interested in doing a walrus cam?'" she said.

Gladziszewski called and found out Weingarten had always intended to feature walruses. "It was fortuitous. And we were off trying to make it happen," she said.

Weingarten said walruses are as majestic as the brown bears that inhabit Katmai. But for most people, they are even less accessible.

Round Island, which can only be reached by an hours-long boat ride from hub communities in southwest Alaska, had just 42 visitors last year. Only five of those camped out overnight in the primitive conditions.

The four Round Island webcams allow up-close views of walruses that few people ever see in person.

"To be able to capture a walrus, not just 'a' walrus but a herd of walrus on a beach is beyond description," Weingarten said.

Up to 14,000 of the tusked mammals haul out on the island while the females are off raising their pups.

"It's important to show people and showcase what is out there," Gladziszewski said.

"This is an incredible resource to have and very, very difficult to get to," she said. "And to show people, from Bristol Bay to their desk in Indiana or wherever, it's an incredible opportunity."

Critical thinking challenge: How did brown bear cams affect walrus cams?

Assigned 6 times

  • austing-fel
    8/19/2015 - 02:25 p.m.

    Brown Bear cams affected Walrus cams because if it wasn't for Brown Bear cams then Maria Gladziszewski wouldn't have thought about Walrus cams.

  • mimir-fel
    8/19/2015 - 02:25 p.m.

    The brown bear cams creator had been asked by Maria Gladziszewski, the deputy of Fish and Game's Division of Wildlife Conservation, to be partners. Weingarten agreed and stated he'd always intended to show walruses. This meaning he helped start and fund the walrus cam.

  • audreya-fel
    8/19/2015 - 02:25 p.m.

    How brown bear cams affected the walrus cams was the brown bear cams were more interesting until Maria Weingarten came up with the thought "What about a walrus cam."

  • hollyk-fel
    8/19/2015 - 02:26 p.m.

    Brown bear cams affected walrus cams by saying that it is causing problems and so on.... but Gladziszewski that it was important for people to see what was out there.

  • lances-fel
    8/19/2015 - 02:27 p.m.

    Brown bear cams affected walrus cams because many people have seen brown bears before but its very very rare for someone to see a walrus up that close therefor this brings popularity to the walrus cam.

  • callans-fel
    8/19/2015 - 02:27 p.m.

    The brown bear cameras have affected the walruses by helping us making walrus cameras. The cameras would help us study the walruses better. If we tried to study them by boat or aircraft from scaring the walruses, and causing them to stampede.

  • helenaw-fel
    8/19/2015 - 02:27 p.m.

    Brown bears affected walrus cams because if explore.org hadn't of added the brown bear cam from another state park in Alaska then there wouldn't have been an actual search.

  • avereyd-fel
    8/19/2015 - 02:29 p.m.

    The brown bear cams affected the walrus cams because the walruses are even less accessible than the bears to the people. It takes hours to get to the walruses and only a small amount of people travel to see them.

  • donovanl-fel
    8/19/2015 - 02:29 p.m.

    Brown bear cams effected walrus cams because brown bears are more accessible to most people than walruses.

  • ethanb-1-fel
    8/19/2015 - 02:30 p.m.

    Brown bear cams affect walrus cams because the bears scare off the walruses causing not to see them

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