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Why Are 10,000 Walruses on a Beach? (Itís Not a Party)

Why Are 10,000 Walruses on a Beach? (Itís Not a Party)

In the past couple of weeks, more than 10,000 walruses have gathered on the northwest coast of Alaska. It may look like the walrus social event of the year, but itís actually a distressing display of how climate change is affecting arctic wildlife.

Normally, walruses prefer to lounge on icebergs and do not assemble in such large packs. They use floating sheets of ice as a resting pad in between diving to the ocean floor for food like clams, snails and worms. Additionally, the female walruses birth their offspring on this ice.

However, global warming has all but eliminated the floating ice, particularly in the shallower regions where walruses can access food. The disappearing ice has left the walruses to find a new habitat on which to relax. With no other option, theyíre winding up on shore.

Until recently, it was practically unheard of for walruses to lounge on the beach, particularly in such large numbers. Over the past several years, however, increasing numbers of walruses are turning to the shore as their only resort. Two years ago, about 30,000 walruses amassed on this small area of beach just over half a mile long.

Though the shore may seem like a suitable replacement for the walruses to spend their time, itís potentially quite dangerous for them. Since they are effectively crammed into such a tiny space like sardines, there is a risk of a stampede. In the event of a stampede, adolescent walruses are especially liable to be crushed by their 3,000+ pound adult counterparts.

In fact, four years ago, a stampede that arose on a similarly crowded beach left more than 130 walruses dead. This year, however, wildlife experts are doing their best to prevent a stampede. They are taking steps to prevent people, airplanes and polar bears from coming too close to the walrusesí temporary hangout in the hope that the walruses wonít become frightened.

Still, a stampede might be a secondary concern to the real problem facing the walruses: climate change. The damage that melted ice is doing to the walrus lifestyle may be irreversible.

Moreover, opportunistic oil companies view the Arctic as a place prime for drilling, especially now that the melting ice has helped to free up access to previously untapped areas. Given the extensive history of Arctic oil disasters, there’s a good chance that oil companies will not only play a hand in damaging the walruses’ natural habitat, but their substitute habitat, as well.

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135 comments

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6:06AM PDT on Jun 3, 2014

thanks for sharing

3:50PM PST on Nov 24, 2013

I read that it's only 90 global corporations who are responsible for global warming. They're also the biggest polluters. The "executives" of these corporations would all fit into two school buses. Let's do that and drop those buses into the middle of the oceans. That would really be good riddance to evil human rubbish.

4:02AM PDT on Oct 10, 2013

Carol,
I am amazed that people can deny nature, and make up their own explanations for observed events.

2:10AM PDT on Oct 10, 2013

Thanks for the nice article Kevin :)

11:19PM PDT on Oct 9, 2013

I'm amazed that people can still deny climate change when the evidence is everywhere now. We certainly aren't prepared.

8:04AM PDT on Oct 8, 2013

Deborah,
This natural phenomenom is NOT a disaster. It shows the resilience of the walrus. Once hunting had been restricted, the species has rebounded to this extent. Only here can significant growth and abundance of a species be a sign of extinction. Must be some form of new math.

2:03AM PDT on Oct 8, 2013

Nature's equivalent to factor farming ... both orchestrated by mankind. Sick.

Why have we learned nothing, regressing further and further back nto the Dark Ages? This disaster is OWNED by humans and their destructive habits, it is NOT a natural phenomena.

When all of natures treasure are impacted ... and the animal species on/above/below the earth are gone, what's left but human destruction ... AND WELL EARNED.






11:26PM PDT on Oct 7, 2013

thanks for sharing

10:11PM PDT on Oct 7, 2013

Makes me want to buy a bunch of freezers and start freezing ice up there.

8:52PM PDT on Oct 7, 2013

Climate Change is affecting ALL of Earth's children. Each of us in different ways. AND none of them good.

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