Skip to comments.Walruses die; global warming blamed
Posted on 12/14/2007 12:13:29 PM PST by NormsRevenge
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - In what some scientists see as another alarming consequence of global warming, thousands of Pacific walruses above the Arctic Circle were killed in stampedes earlier this year after the disappearance of sea ice caused them to crowd onto the shoreline in extraordinary numbers.
The deaths took place during the late summer and fall on the Russian side of the Bering Strait, which separates Alaska from Russia.
"It was a pretty sobering year tough on walruses," said Joel Garlach-Miller, a walrus expert for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Unlike seals, walruses cannot swim indefinitely. The giant, tusked mammals typically clamber onto the sea ice to rest, or haul themselves onto land for just a few weeks at a time.
But ice disappeared in the Chukchi Sea this year because of warm summer weather, ocean currents and persistent eastern winds, Garlach-Miller said.
As a result, walruses came ashore earlier and stayed longer, congregating in extremely high numbers, with herds as big as 40,000 at Point Shmidt, a spot that had not been used by walruses as a "haulout" for a century, scientists said.
Walruses are vulnerable to stampedes when they gather in such large numbers. The appearance of a polar bear, a hunter or a low-flying airplane can send them rushing to the water.
Sure enough, scientists received reports of hundreds and hundreds of walruses dead of internal injuries suffered in stampedes. Many of the youngest and weakest animals, mostly calves born in the spring, were crushed.
Biologist Anatoly Kochnev of Russia's Pacific Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography estimated 3,000 to 4,000 walruses out of population of perhaps 200,000 died, or two or three times the usual number on shoreline haulouts.
He said the animals only started appearing on shore for extended periods in the late 1990s, after the sea ice receded.
"The reason is the global warming," Kochnev said.
The reports match predictions of what might happen to walruses if the ice receded, said wildlife biologist Tony Fischbach of the U.S. Geological Survey.
"We were surprised that this was happening so soon, and we were surprised at the magnitude of the report," he said.
Scientists said the death of so many walruses particularly calves is alarming in itself. But if the trend continues, and walruses no longer have summer sea ice from which to dive for clams and snails, they could strip coastal areas of food, and that could reduce their numbers even further.
No large-scale walrus die-offs were seen in Alaska during the same period, apparently because the animals congregated in smaller groups on the American side of the Bering Strait, with the biggest known herd at about 2,500.
Oh well. At least now they're will to say SOME scientists, instead of just SCIENTISTS (with "most" or "all" being implied), which has been their habit in the past.
A small victory, perhaps, but notable.
Lemmmings do this too. Of course lemmings are 10,000 times smaller so the destruction is less awesome.
This is the big news? The walrus population has grown???
"I know I can't swim, but that's Hulk Hogan approaching on that jet ski."
La Nina, wind shifts.
The sea level rose 1” right about the time she went swmimming. Melting of the polar ice caps or simply displacement by a large lard-based object?
Running from the polar bears?
Once a seal is caught, the polar bear carries the seal away from the water to make sure the seal doesn’t escape. The skin and blubber are eaten first and if the meat is eaten at all, it is eaten last.
Polar bears have big stomachs. A 500kg (1100lb) bear can fill its stomach with 75kg (165lbs) of food. (Yikes, that’s how big I am!) Their big stomachs let them eat large meals every few days instead of having to hunt all the time. The blubber is swallowed in large chunks because the bears don’t chew their food very much. To stay white and camouflaged, the bears will stop eating and spend a few minutes cleaning themselves by rolling in the snow or water before returning to eat again.
When polar bears are on the sea ice, there is little or no fresh water for them to drink. All the ice they are on is made of salt water, which is not good to drink. When a polar bear eats fat and blubber, they digest it into energy and water. They get all the fresh water they need from the fat they eat. Pretty cool, eh? Arctic foxes and birds usually eat any leftover meat. When the ice melts, the bones fall into the ocean.
Why eat so much blubber?
Many animals will eat all summer to survive the winter, but polar bears do the opposite; polar bears eat all winter to survive the summer. A polar bear uses about 2kg (4.5lbs) of fat each day just to survive. In the summer, when polar bears can’t hunt seals (there is no ice to stand on!) they can go for several months without a big meal. If the summer lasts 90 days (3 months) and a polar bear doesn’t catch a seal during that time, but loses 2kg each day, that’s 180kg (400lbs). Polar bears can have big weight changes and still stay healthy as long as they eat lots during the winter.”
There’s only one solution to walrus stampedes caused by global warming. Kill all humans.
Alternate Headline: Walrus Over-Population Sorts Itself Out
“Bush lied, Walruses died!”
It has many years since I was in school but I thought "ice" was fresh water. Last time I was on a cruise to Alaska, the ship sent a small boat out to some floating ice to get some so they could make drinks using the ice berg ice.
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