The Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) has taken in a male Pacific walrus calf, estimated to be around 1 month old and weighing approximately 200 lbs, that was found on the North Slope of Alaska on August 1, 2023.
All images photo courtesy of Alaska SeaLife Center.
According to an organizational release,1 workers saw the walrus calf on Alaska’s North Slope, about 4 miles inland from the Beaufort Sea, which was a strange location for Pacific walrus, which live almost entirely in the ocean or near the western coastline. The observers said there was a “walrus trail” on the tundra close to a road where he was discovered, however, it is unknown how he arrived inland. Relying entirely on maternal care for the first 2 years of life, this walrus calf would have been unable to survive without intervention.1
Fun facts about walruses
Some noteworthy information to know about these marvelous marine mammals2,3:
- There are 2 subspecies, the Pacific walrus and the Atlantic walrus
- Male walruses can weigh over 3000 lbs
- Both male and female walruses have tusks
- They can live to around 40 years old
- Mother walruses are protective of their young
- They enjoy resting on ice or on shore
- One Pacific walrus calf is born every 2 years
With US Fish and Wildlife Service approval, the ASLC teamed up with Alaska Clean Seas and ConocoPhillips Alaska to offer shelter and set up travel. The calf was transported to a warehouse and watched overnight. ConocoPhillips Alaska provided the use of one of its company planes for transport. Staff from both organizations then flew with the calf to the Seward Airport to meet with the ASLC team.
Once they landed at Seward Airport, the calf was moved into the ASLC Wildlife Response van and cared for by the ASLC wildlife response team. The veterinary team performed an exam and found the animal was suffering from malnutrition, dehydration, and a cloudy eye. Initial bloodwork suggested he also may be battling an infection.1
The ASLC staff is now following a 24-hour care routine as walruses are highly tactile and social animals that receive almost constant care from their mothers throughout the first 2 years of life. To mimic this maternal beahvior, round-the-clock “cuddling” is being provided, so the calf stays calm and develops in a healthy way. Calves tend to quickly acclimate to human care and staff noted he is already eating formula from a bottle.1
“We are lucky that his first night went well,” said ASLC Wildlife Response Curator Jane Belovarac.1 “It isn’t often that we’re able to admit a walrus calf, but every time we do, we learn more about the species and how to care for them.”
“ConocoPhillips is honored that we were able to assist with the rescue and transportation of the young walrus,” said Erec Isaacson, president, ConocoPhillips Alaska.1 “This is an example of a network of caring neighbors who work together for the best possible outcomes. Alaska is fortunate to have an organization like the Alaska SeaLife Center where patients can be cared for by veterinary professionals. He is in great hands, and we look forward to following his story.”
The Alaska SeaLife Center Wildlife Response Program offers care for animals with the help of corporate sponsors and individual donors. Individuals can contribute to the cause here: www.alaskasealife.org/donate. The Alaska SeaLife Center adivses1 that before approaching an injured or stranded marine animal in Alaska, to call the 24-hour Stranded Marine Animal Hotline at 1-888-774-SEAL(7325).
- Rare Pacific walrus calf admitted to the Alaska SeaLife Center Wildlife Response Program. News release.Alaska SeaLife Center. August 3, 2023. Accessed August 9, 2023. https://www.alaskasealife.org/news_item/176
- Top 10 facts about walruses. WWF. Accessed August 9, 2023. https://www.wwf.org.uk/learn/fascinating-facts/walrus
- Pacific Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens). Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Accessed August 9, 2023. https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=walrus.main