Thursday, October 2, 2014

Walruses Are Quasi-Adorable Too

One of the most highly-cited aspects of global warming is melting sea ice in the Arctic- which rises sea levels, which drowns a bunch of coastal cities. The animals living in the Arctic don't really notice the sinking cities because they would be too busy noticing the lack of sea ice in their own backyard, which they partially live on. Usually it's the polar bears that get spotlighted here, but there are other species as well... species such as walruses.

35,000 of which have made their way onto shore 5 miles north of Point Lay, Alaska, all clumped together in one mass. They were spotted by the NOAA, who does an annual aerial survey of the marine mammals in the region. 35,000 is the most they've ever seen onshore, and they weren't really seeing it at all prior to 2007. (This concerns the Alaskan side of the Chukchi Sea, separating the northern sections of Kanchatka and Alaska. The NOAA, being an American government agency, isn't surveying the Russian half, but the World Wildlife Fund is giving it a look of their own and saying matters aren't any better there either.) And with numbers that large, the fear is that a stampede will occur if they're spooked by anything, trampling the younger walrus in the process. As a result, flights over the area are being rerouted and local bush pilots are being asked to steer clear.

Walruses don't just live on sea ice part of the year, that's where they give birth. A walrus born on sea ice is a walrus not getting run over because while they still bunch up, there's plenty of ice around... until there isn't. And a walrus spends about two-thirds of its life in the ocean, but it can't swim forever and must eventually find ice... or land. A diving session for food will only last 2-10 minutes, meaning straying out to deeper water is eventually going to end very badly if the ice recedes too far. The walruses know this, and as we're seeing here, they'll eventually pick land over ice resting on sufficiently deep water.

And no, your presence as a gawking tourist is not welcomed. That will also spook the walruses. Just... just stay home and cut the carbon emissions, okay?

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