A mass of 35,000 walruses have come to rest on the shores of Alaska.
According to Alaska Dispatch News, the sea creatures haven’t been able to find sea ice and instead are resting ashore near Point Lay, Alaska.
The walruses were spotted on Saturday by biologists surveying the area. Chadwick Jay, of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Pacific walrus research program, told the paper it is difficult to determine how many walruses are ashore.
“Basically, [the biologists are] just kind of looking out the window as the plane goes by. It’s basically just a guesstimate…There’s at any given time some number of animals that are off the haulout in the water, feeding.”
As Yahoo News explained, walruses are unable to swim for an indefinite amount of time. When they’re tired, they “haul out” of the water by sinking their tusks in the ice and climbing ashore.
While the photos of the walruses are spectacular, Discovery News said the phenomenon in Alaska can be dangerous.
“Baby and juvenile walruses, however, are at risk for being trampled, should something spook a walrus or two. Indeed, officials have noted several dozen dead animals in this gathering. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to investigate those deaths.”
As reported in the Inquisitr, this is not the first time that walruses have sought shelter on the shores of Alaska. In October 2013, approximately 10,000 walruses appeared near Point Lay.
According the World Wildlife Fund, global warming is to blame for the mass of walruses in Alaska.
“[The walruses are] driven there by the loss of their preferred resting and feeding place on coastal ice. A similar scene is playing out on beaches across the Bering Strait in Russia. These enormous gatherings follow the warmest global June-August period on record…This happens even in years (like this one) when the sea ice does not hit a new record low. The trajectory and projections are the same – continued ice loss in the Arctic. Seeing the walruses on the beach is a tangible sign of that change.”
The managing director of the WWF, Margaret Williams, told Yahoo News, “The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic…that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change.”
[Image source: NOAA]