Government scientists recently captured compelling video evidence that climate change puts Alaskan walruses at risk.
Typically, these creatures spend their summers far from shore, searching for in the Chukchi Sea and resting on floating sea ice when they get tired.
But thanks to climate change, this year’s sea ice levels are among the lowest in recorded history. So for the fourth year in a row, thousands of walruses have returned to shore in search of food.
The only problem is food is far less accessible on land, and when this many walruses haul out at once, the competition is fierce.
For an animal being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act, the unusual behavior is problematic. Most of the animals clustered onshore are females with calves, and calves can be trampled to death when so many animals crowd together, said Chad Jay, walrus project leader for the USGS’ Alaska Science Center (LA Times).
“Climate change has forced Arctic sea ice into a downward spiral with disastrous results: Polar bear litter sizes are dwindling, walruses are crowding ashore and Alaskan communities are relocating due to extreme erosion and storm surges,” Lou Leonard, climate change director for the World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement about the walrus haul-out.
Two dead walruses were among the animals seen during an aerial sighting of the haul-out on Aug. 26. Last year, several dead calves were left behind on land.
Image Credit: Flickr - NOAA Photo Library