Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Walruses forsaking sea ice for sand

The spotting of huge herds of walruses over the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast again is, according to scientists at the US Geological Survey, an indication of climate change in the region --- since the walruses are clearly forsaking sea ice for sand.

A large herd of nearly 5,000 walruses were spotted on Wednesday by a contractor taking part in federal marine mammal aerial surveys over the Chukchi Sea; and, second herd of 3,000 walruses was found resting a short distance away.

Even though the number of walruses recently spotted was comparatively lesser than those spotted last September, the researchers are of the opinion that the behavior is a sign of lack of sufficient Arctic sea ice for the big, swimming mammals for use as resting platforms after deep dives searching for food.
It was in 2007 that several thousand walruses were first seen on Alaska's northwest shore. They returned in 2009; and, the numbers that they gathered in last year were unprecedented --- with more than 20,000 animals counted near Point Lay, an Eskimo village which lies 300 miles southwest of Barrow and 700 miles northwest of Anchorage.

Noting that the melting of sea ice in Arctic waters generally goes on through mid- to late September, Bruce Woods – a spokesman for the US Fish and Wildlife Service – said that the herds of walruses gathering on the northeast coast of Alaska will apparently continue to grow this time round.

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