10/02/14

Permalink 35,000 walrus gather on north-west Alaska beach - Video

An estimated 35,000 pacific walrus have been spotted ashore on a beach in north-west Alaska. Unlike seals, the mammals cannot swim indefinitely and are now coming ashore in record numbers as they struggle to find sea ice for resting in the Artic. They use their tusks to "haul out," or pull themselves onto an ice floe or rocks. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) photographed the huge gathering about five miles north of Point Lay. Point Lay is an Inupiat Eskimo village 300 miles southwest of Barrow and 700 miles northwest of Anchorage. The enormous herd was spotted during NOAA's annual arctic marine mammal aerial survey, said spokeswoman Julie Speegle. The survey is conducted with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the agency that oversees offshore lease sales. Pacific walrus spend winters in the Bering Sea. Females give birth on sea ice and use ice as a diving platform to reach snails, clams and worms on the shallow continental shelf. 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, the body of water north of the Bering Strait. In recent years, sea ice has receded north beyond shallow continental shelf waters and into Arctic Ocean water, where depths exceed two miles and walrus cannot dive to the bottom.

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