SOURCE: CBC News
DATE: September 14, 2017
SNIP: Thousands of Pacific walrus are coming to Alaska’s northwest shore again in the absence of summer sea ice and not all are surviving.
A survey Monday of a mile of coastline near the Inupiaq Eskimo village of Point Lay found 64 dead walruses, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told The Associated Press.
Most of the animals were younger than a year old. The cause of death is not known, said agency spokeswoman Andrea Medeiros, but stampedes — set off when startled walruses rush to the sea, crushing smaller animals — are a likely suspect.
Walrus dive hundreds of feet to eat clams on the ocean bottom, but unlike seals, they cannot swim indefinitely.
Historically, sea ice has provided a platform for rest and safety far from predators for mothers and calves north of the Bering Strait.
However, sea ice has receded much farther north in recent years because of global warming, beyond the shallow continental shelf, over water more than 3,050 metres deep. That’s far too deep for walruses to reach the ocean bottom.
Instead of staying on sea ice over the deep water, walruses have gathered on shore to rest.
The ultimate threat to walruses is the rapid loss of sea ice due to climate disruption, [Shaye Wolf, climate science director for the Center for Biological Diversity] said, adding that rollbacks of climate change protections by the Trump administration will further endanger the animals.