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Walruses started hauling out on the Alaska shore

Earlier than normal decrease in sea ice and the movement of walruses towards shore has worried the environments and wild life conservationists. 

walruses-haul-outTwo large haul-outs of walrus seen on Aug. 17, 2011, near a beach north of Point Lay. Total number of walrus is estimated to be 8,000 in the area. Credit: Blaine Thorn, via – livescience.com

Last year, as many as 20,000 walrus migrated to land. This year, the immigration started three weeks earlier than last year and it is expected to be higher than previous years. Walrus normally feed on mollusks, clams and other animals found in sea floor,  by diving to the seafloor. When ice disappears on the area of relatively shallow waters and when ice remains in deep sea areas, the walruses can’t dive in such depth and move to lands for refuge.

This can strain the local ecosystem as the animals feed in a concentrated location, and the cramped quarters can lead to stampedes that kill many, generally calves, leaving behind carcasses that can attract hungry polar bears.

In 2009, 131 dead walruses were found near Icy Cape, Alaska, and in 2007, 500 dead individuals were found at a "mega haul-out" site near a Russian village. These mass migrations were first reported in 2006 in Russia.

The United State Geological Survey had tagged some 40 walruses with satellite radio-tags on Aug. 7 in the southern Chukchi Sea to observe their movements.

The Arctic cover was the record low ice cover in 2011 July and the trend is expected to continue in the future. The Arctic warming will bring challenges to deal with the wild live and the environment.

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