Alaska Plays Host To Thousands Of Stranded Walruses As Ice Disappears

As the North Pacific Ocean warms up, Arctic ice is diminishing, and thousands of walruses are clambering onto the Alaskan shoreline to cool off.

Normally, walruses rest on the ice floes of the Chukchi Sea between hunts, but those have melted away. With record-low Arctic sea ice, legions of walruses are “hauling out,” or gathering on shore, near the community of Point Lay.

Approximately 35,000 walruses surged to the shoreline in 2014. So far — as of August 27, 2015 — nearly 6,000 walruses have made the same journey, making this the earliest haul out on record, according to the Washington Post.

Here’s footage of a 2010 haul out event at Point Lay, filmed by the U.S. Geological Survey:

Haul-outs pose a series of health risks for the walruses, including stampedes and a loss of access to food.

By being on land, the creatures are much farther from their hunting grounds, which can result in undernourishment and possible starvation. Worse, walruses oftentimes stampede back into the ocean when frightened. In doing so, they may accidentally trample over or kill smaller adult walruses and even infants.

The ebbing of Alaskan sea ice into northern parts of the Arctic Ocean has seen a recent increase. This causes major concern over the well-being of walruses, who depend on it for many things, including giving birth and diving to find food.

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