Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

25 Walruses Killed on Alaskan Beach, Beheaded and Missing Tusks

25 Walruses Killed on Alaskan Beach, Beheaded and Missing Tusks

It's a bad time to be a walrus. Authorities have launched a federal investigation into the deaths of 25 walruses on a beach off the Chukchi Sea in northwest Alaska last week. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) believe that the walruses did not die of natural causes.

About two dozen walruses were found dead in Cape Lisburne on the Chukchi Sea coast near the small northwest Alaskan town of Point Hope. Wildlife officials suspect poachers. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

"The carcasses, nearly half of which were cubs, seem to have been shot—some were even beheaded," says Bustle. Investigators suspect that they were poached for their ivory because some of their remains lacked tusks.

"The missing heads and tusks don’t necessarily indicate illegal activity," FWS spokesperson Andrea Medeiros told CBS Seattle. "The animals could have died in the ocean and washed ashore," she said. "Federal regulations allow anyone to collect bones, teeth and ivory of dead marine mammals found on beaches or land within a quarter-mile of the ocean, though they must follow certain rules," says CBS Seattle. "Walrus skulls with tusk attached are collectors’ items. The ivory often is carved and made into jewelry. However, walrus killed only for the collection of ivory is considered wasteful, and 'head-hunting' is illegal."

As if that wasn't bad enough, about 100 miles away at Point Lay, where some 35,000 walruses were hauled out yet again this year due to record low sea ice, an estimated 37 walruses were also found dead last week. In that case, FWS said that "they do not appear to have died as a result of foul play," according to Alaska Dispatch News.

One of about three dozen young walruses found dead on a beach near Point Lay in Northwest Alaska. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

"We haven’t had a chance to go out there and confirm whether they’re from this year or last year or identify the cause of death,” said James MacCracken, a supervisory biologist and walrus specialist at FWS.

As of last week, the Point Lay area haulout was estimated to include 10,000 walruses, said Medeiros. Earlier this month, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that this summer, the Arctic sea ice hit the fourth-lowest level on record. Since 2007, diminishing sea ice in summer and fall has forced more and more female walruses and their pups ashore. Typically, they use the ice floes for resting and nursing in between dives for food. The overcrowding on beaches results in dangerous conditions, especially for the pups. They can be crushed to death when a herd stampedes due to disturbances from polar bears, people, aircraft or boat traffic.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

USDA Plans to Bake Chickens Alive

Beloved Elephant Yongki Killed by Ivory Poachers, Sparks Outrage

More People Have Died This Year from Selfies Than Sharks

​Sweden to Become One of World’s First Fossil Fuel-Free Nation​

Kevin Maillefer / Unsplash

By Lynne Peeples

Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.

In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Eat Just's cell-based chicken nugget is now served at Singapore restaurant 1880. Eat Just, Inc.

At a time of impending global food scarcity, cell-based meats and seafood have been heralded as the future of food.

Read More Show Less

Trending

New Zealand sea lions are an endangered species and one of the rarest species of sea lions in the world. Art Wolfe / Photodisc / Getty Images

One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.

Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less

piyaset / iStock / Getty Images Plus

In an alarming new study, scientists found that climate change is already harming children's diets.

Read More Show Less
Wildfires within the Arctic Circle in Alaska on June 4, 2020. Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data processed by Pierre Markuse. CC BY 2.0

By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.

Earth had its second-warmest year on record in 2020, just 0.02 degrees Celsius (0.04°F) behind the record set in 2016, and 0.98 degrees Celsius (1.76°F) above the 20th-century average, NOAA reported January 14.

Read More Show Less