Quantcast

Mother Walrus Attacks and Sinks Russian Naval Boat to Protect Her Cubs

Animals
Walruses in the Arctic on Aug. 20, 2018. Alice Cahill / Flickr

Don't mess with a mother walrus!

That's what a team of Russian scientists and naval sailors learned when they tried to land on a remote Arctic archipelago in an inflatable boat, The Independent reported Tuesday.


"The walruses probably feared for their cubs and attacked the rubber landing craft," the Russian Geographical Society (RGS) said in a Sept. 18 statement reported by The Independent. "The boat sank, but a tragedy was avoided thanks to the prompt action by the squad leader. All landing participants safely reached the shore."

The navy put out a similar account, but did not mention the boat sinking.

"During the landing at Cape Heller, a group of researchers had to flee from a female walrus, which, protecting its cubs, attacked an expedition boat," the Northern Fleet Press Service said in a statement reported by The Independent. "Serious troubles were avoided thanks to the clear and well-coordinated actions of the Northern Fleet servicemen, who were able to take the boat away from the animals without harming them."

Walruses live near the Arctic Circle. They are generally sociable, according to National Geographic, but can be aggressive during their mating season. They can weigh up to 1.5 tons and grow between 7.25 to 11.5 feet tall. Their tusks, which both males and females have, can grow as long as three feet. Their maternal instincts can be tender as well as protective. According to Oceanwide Expeditions, mother walruses cuddle their calves the same way human mothers do.

Before the walrus attacked, CBS News reported that the Russian military was flying a drone over a group of walruses gathered on a nearby beach in order to take pictures for the expedition. It is possible the drone spooked the mother.

The sailors and scientists are on a joint mission in the Franz Josef Land archipelago to study the flora, fauna and glaciers of the area, CNN reported. They are also mapping historical Arctic expeditions like Austro-Hungarian military officer Julius von Payer's in 1874 and American explorer Walter Wellman's in 1898.

Aggrieved mother walruses are just one of the many dangers of exploring the region. In addition to wildlife attacks, the team faces extreme weather and freezing temperatures, the Russian Geographical Society said, as CNN reported.

"The incident is another confirmation that no one is expecting humans in the Arctic," the scientists wrote.

However, that doesn't mean that the Arctic is free from human influence. Walruses are considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. During the 18th and 19th centuries, they were hunted extensively for their tusks, oil, skin and meat and were even driven to extinction in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and around Sable Island, according to National Geographic. Today, they can only be hunted by indigenous communities, but they are still threatened by other human activities including oil and gas drilling, shipping and air travel, pollution and the way the climate crisis is changing their Arctic habitat.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A harbour seal on an ice floe in Glacier Bay, Alaska. A new study shows that the climate crisis has warmed waters, changing ecosystems and crippling sea ice growth. Janette Hill / robertharding / Getty Images Plus

The climate crisis is accelerating the rate of change in Alaska's marine ecosystem far faster than scientists had previously thought, causing possibly irreversible changes, according to new research, as Newsweek reported.

Read More
Doctors report that only 1 in 4 children are getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Ronnie Kaufman / DigitalVision / Getty Images

By Dan Gray

Pediatricians are being urged to start writing "exercise prescriptions" for the children they see in their office.

Read More
Sponsored
A First Nations protester walks in front of a train blockade in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ontario, Canada on Feb. 21, 2020. LARS HAGBERG / AFP via Getty Images

An indigenous rail blockade that snarled train travel in Canada for more than two weeks came to an end Monday when police moved in to clear protesters acting in solidarity with another indigenous community in British Columbia (B.C.), which is fighting to keep a natural gas pipeline off its land.

Read More
A rainbow snake, a rare reptile spotted in a Florida county for the first time in more than 50 years, seen here on July 5, 2013. Kevin Enge / FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute / Flickr

A Florida hiker recently stumbled across a slithering surprise — a rare snake that hadn't been spotted in the area for more than 50 years.

Read More
We need our government to do everything it can to stop PFAS contamination and exposure from wreaking havoc in communities across the country. LuAnn Hun / Unsplash

By Genna Reed

The EPA announced last week that it is issuing a preliminary regulatory determination for public comment to set an enforceable drinking water standard to two of the most common and well-studied PFAS, PFOA and PFOS.

This decision is based on three criteria:

  1. PFOA and PFOS have an adverse effect on public health
  2. PFOA and PFOS occur in drinking water often enough and at levels of public health concern;
  3. regulation of PFOA and PFOS is a meaningful opportunity for reducing the health risk to those served by public water systems.
Read More