Extreme Arctic sea ice melt forces thousands of walruses ashore in Alaska

Aerial photograph of thousands of pacific walrus coming ashore near point lay on the north west arctic coast of Alaska Photo: Gary Braasch/Corbis

Survival of walruses threatened as they wash ashore on a remote barrier island.

The extreme loss of Arctic sea ice due to climate change is forcing thousands of walruses to crowd ashore on a remote barrier island off Alaska, and threatening their survival.

. . . Such landings, forced by the absence of sea ice on which to rest and feed, put the animals at risk of stampede in the limited space of the barrier island.

The animals are easily spooked by aircraft or onlookers, government scientists warned. Trampling deaths are one of the biggest natural risks.

Sea ice cover in the winter months fell to a new low this year because of climate change and abnormal weather patterns.

Some scientists believe the Arctic could be entirely ice-free in the summer months by the 2030s – with profound effects for local indigenous communities that rely on the ice, as well as wildlife that depend on extreme conditions.

Since 2000, the forced migration of walruses and their young to barrier islands such as Point Lay – known as a “haul out” – has become an increasingly regular occurrence, according to US government scientists.

. . . Last year, as many as 40,000 animals, mainly females and their young, were forced ashore. It was the biggest known haul-out of its kind in the US Arctic, according to government scientists. The Federal Aviation Authority re-routed flights and bush pilots were told to keep their distance to avoid a stampede.

Agency scientists said about 60 young walruses were killed because of crowding and stampedes.

                               climate-change-an-estimated-35000-walruses-are-pictured-are-pictured-hauled-out-on-a-beach-near-the-village-of-point-lay-alaska-700-miles-north-west-of-anchorage-in-this-september-2014-photogra

An estimated 35,000 walruses, hauled out on a beach near the village of Point Lay. Alaska, 700 miles north west of anchorage September, 2014.

READ FULL ARTICLE:

Extreme Arctic sea ice melt forces thousands of walruses ashore in Alaska

August 27, 2015

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/aug/27/walruses-alaska-arctic-sea-ice-melt

 Featured image: Aerial photograph of thousands of pacific walrus coming ashore near point lay on the north west arctic coast of Alaska, Photo: Gary Braasch/Corbis

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