Number of Walruses Hauled Out near Point Lay, Alaska, Swells to over 20,000

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Just weeks before Arctic sea ice extent reaches a record or near-record annual low, observers estimate that over 20,000 walruses have hauled-out near Point Lay, Alaska.  The aerial observers also have spotted dead walruses on their flights over the Chukchi Sea.

By 17 August, approximately 8,000 walruses were observed during a survey flight of the Chukchi Offshore Monitoring in Drilling Area (COMIDA) marine mammal aerial survey project (see 8,000 Walruses Congregate along Alaska Shoreline, Unable to Find Sea Ice Near Feeding Areas,   WWF Climate Blog, 19 August).  Another COMIDA flight two days later (19 August) reported [PDF] their numbers had grown to about 10,000 walruses (see photos below). 

Above and below: During COMIDA flight 235 [PDF] on 19 August 2011, observers reported " Approximately 10,000 walruses were observed hauled out on land slightly north of Point Lay" (click on image for larger high resolution image).  Source: Rebecca Shea (National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

Less than a week later, COMIDA observers on 24 August estimated that the number of walruses had doubled to roughly 20,000.  They also reported seeing four dead walruses during that same flight over the Chukchi sea.  Several dead walruses also were reported by observers on the 26 August flight and the 27 August flight.

Last year an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 walruses ultimately hauled-out near Point Lay.  Arctic sea ice extent by 31 August 2011 had dropped well below 2010 levels and may drop below record 2007 levels for the date within days (see the decline as documented by IARC-JAXA Information System or by the National Snow and Ice Data Center).

Online Resources

Arctic section of WWF-US Web site

Arctic section of WWF International Web site

Arctic section of WWF Canada Web site

WWF Climate Change Blog:

 

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