Walrus mass in vast numbers on Alaska beach as sea ice retreats

Walrus mass in vast numbers on Alaska beach as sea ice retreats

Concern that warming climate is responsible for gathering of about 35,000 walrus in north-west Alaska

    • theguardian.com, Wednesday 1 October 2014 01.26 BST

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/01/walrus-mass-vast-numbers-alaska-beach-sea-ice-retreats?CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

The huge gathering of walrus near Point Lay, Alaska.
The huge gathering of walrus near Point Lay, Alaska. Photograph: Corey Accardo/AP

Pacific walrus that can’t find sea ice for resting in Arctic waters are coming ashore in record numbers on a beach in north-west Alaska.

An estimated 35,000 walrus were photographed on Saturday about five miles north of Point Lay, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Point Lay is an Inupiat village 700 miles (1,126 kilometres) north-west of Anchorage.

The enormous gathering was spotted during NOAA’s annual arctic marine mammal aerial survey, spokeswoman Julie Speegle said by email.

The gathering of walrus on shore is a phenomenon that has accompanied the loss of summer sea ice as the climate has warmed.

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.

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