Walrus Start Hauling Out Along North Coast

Walrus have started hauling out on shore along Alaska’s north coast. The sea ice has retreated far north of the continental shelf, leaving the animals with limited options for foraging. But only a handful of walrus have come to shore so far this year. Chad Jay is a walrus biologist with the United States Geological Survey. His team put 40 tags on walrus last month and he’s now monitoring their movements.

In late summer last year, 20,000-30,000 walrus hauled out on barrier islands a few miles from the village of Point Lay. Last year, the animals didn’t begin arriving in large numbers until late August. But with the sea ice coverage so low this summer, Jay says he’s surprised more walrus haven’t hauled out on land in Alaska.

Jay and colleagues are planning to put more radio tags on walrus near Point Lay next week. They’re tracking the animals to learn more about their foraging behavior. They want to compare how their feeding behavior changes when they’re forced to haul out on land instead of on the sea ice.

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Annie Feidt is the Managing Editor for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media in Anchorage, KTOO Public Media in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49th state just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie

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