Walrus return to Point Lay – but this year theyre late

first_imgAbout a thousand walrus are hauled out on a barrier island near the village of Point Lay, about 180 miles southwest of Barrow.Listen Now A young Pacific Walrus bull in coastal Alaska waters. (Photo by Joel Garlich-Miller/USFWS)The haul out is part of an unnerving trend. This year marks the eighth time in a decade that large numbers of walrus have crowded onto land in the area. The animals have been driven to shore as sea ice retreats, limiting access to their usual feeding grounds.But this year’s haul out — so late in the fall — was a surprise.Andrea Medeiros is a spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She said scientists were pretty sure it wasn’t going to happen this year. Then, she said, “Next thing I know, I get an email from one of our biologists saying, ‘The walruses are hauling out,’ and I’m like, ‘Ahh!’”Residents in Point Lay contacted the Fish and Wildlife Service with the news Friday morning.Medeiros said the haul out is forming about a month later than in the past. Usually at this time, walruses are heading south to Russian waters for the winter. And although sea ice receded to its second lowest level on record this summer, there was lingering ice over the walrus’ traditional feeding grounds.The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Native village of Point Lay are asking people to stay away from the area during the haul out to avoid disturbing the animals and causing a stampede.“The risk there is when they are onshore and the animals get spooked, the larger animals will flee to the water and crush the small animals in the process,” Medeiros said. “So it leads to a lot of preventable mortality.”Biologists are continuing to monitor the haul out as it forms. In the past, up to 40,000 animals have gathered in the area.last_img

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