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Troop of Walruses 10,000 Strong Hauls Ashore in Alaska

Oct 01, 2013 02:09 PM EDT
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A herd of walrus approximately 10,000 strong has come ashore on Alaska's northwest coast. The burly, tusked mammals have gathered on a remote barrier island in the Chukchi Sea near Point Lay, about 700 miles north of Anchorage.
(Photo : NOAA Fisheries )

A herd of walrus approximately 10,000 strong has come ashore on Alaska's northwest coast.

The burly, tusked mammals have gathered on a remote barrier island in the Chukchi Sea near Point Lay, about 700 miles north of Anchorage.

On Sept. 12, aerial observations indicated between 1,200 and 4,000 walruses had hauled out on the island. The number swelled to as many as 8,000 on Sept. 22 and has since grown to roughly 10,000, though a more accurate count is impossible to make from aerial photos.

Towards late summer and into fall, walruses tend to herd in large aggregations such as this, but officials from NOAA fisheries report that the mass aggregations in this region of Alaska are a relatively new phenomenon.

In 2011, about 30,000 walruses were observed not far from where this recent aggregation has been spotted.

"Large walrus haulouts along the Alaskan coasts in the northeastern Chukchi Sea are a relatively new phenomenon," said Megan Ferguson, a marine mammal scientist with NOAA Fisheries.

Walruses tend to haul out on icebergs, but low ice levels have prompted them to haul out on shore instead, Alaska's KTOO news radio reported, adding that the first documented large-scale haul out was in 2007 when the Chukchi Sea experienced record low ice levels.

Such large aggregations of walruses can become a danger risk if a stampede is provoked by a polar bear, passing aircraft or hunter, The Associated Press reported.

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