Global warming is forcing thousands of walruses in Alaska to clamour inland due to the shrinking loss of Arctic ice.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the massive group of walruses was spotted on August 23 by a photographer and later confirmed by local villagers of Port Lay. It’s sadly a familiar sight. Just last October, 35,000 walruses were relocated on a remote barrier island near Point Lay as their Arctic sea habitats melted away — another deadly side effect of climate change. In fact, scientists say it’s been a regular occurrence since 2000.
These landings are dangerous for the animals as the younger and small walruses are at risk for being trampled to death on the limited space. Trampling deaths are one of the biggest natural risks for walruses. Last year, 60 walruses were killed as a result.
“Walruses often flee haulouts in response to the sight, sound, or odor of humans or machines. Walruses are particularly sensitive to changes in engine noise and are more likely to stampede off beaches when planes turn or fly low overhead,” Andrea Medeiros, a spokeswoman for the fish and wildlife service, told The Guardian in an email.
This winter sea ice cover fell to a new low because of global warming and abnormal weather patterns — and it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better. Some scientists believe the Arctic could be entirely ice-free in the summer months by the 2030s. The startling news is probably one of the reasons why U.S. President Barack Obama is journeying to the Alaskan Arctic this weekend — and becoming the first U.S. President to do so — in order to draw attention to the drastic consequences of climate change for the Arctic.
“The ice-free period in the Chukchi Sea is currently about a month long, however, global climate models suggest the ice-free period could become as long as 4 or 5 months by century’s end if rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated,” the U.S. Geological Survey said in a recent press release.
In 2013 10,000 walruses were spotted ashore basically at the same spot near Point Lay. It just goes to show that things are definitely getting worse, not better.