Global warming is being blamed for the phenomenon of thousands of walruses migrating to the shores of Alaska’s northwestern coast when they traditionally have stayed out at sea.
According to local reports, a herd of about 5,000 walruses are on as beach just north of Point Lay, with another group of 3,000 animals in the vicinity.
A group of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey are scheduled to travel to the Chukchi Sea next week to tag the walruses with satellite radio transmitters. They will also try to determine why the creatures are going on shore.
“This is a relatively new event and it appears closely related to the loss of sea ice habitat on the offshore of the Chukchi Sea,” said Joel Garlich-Miller, wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to media.
However, this may only be a replay on what happened last summer, when 20,000 walruses assembled near Point Lay.
Because the ice has melted at a rapid pace, the edge of the sea ice (where walruses normally like to be so they can dive for food) has moved too far from shore. Walruses cannot swim in waters that deep.
These dangerously large walrus haul-outs in the Chukchi Sea are a direct result of extreme Arctic sea- ice melt caused by climate change, said Geoff York, an Arctic wildlife biologist with the World Wildlife Fund.
Unless carbon pollution is dramatically reduced, walruses, polar bears and even people in the Arctic will face a much more perilous future than they do already.
Local wildlife officials have recommended that people and vehicles stay away from the walrus herd, since any sudden shock or noise could prompt a dangerous stampede.