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All Creatures,

Episode 57: The Wonderful Walrus

October 02, 2018

An iconic artic species, the Walrus is one of the largest and heaviest mammals on the planet.  Global warming is having a direct impact on the Walrus, similar to other arctic species. These incredible social animals while surviving near extinction in the 1930s, and now threatened once again.

Walrus Description

Walruses are only eclipsed in weight by the elephant and elephant seal. Male walruses can weigh up to 4400 lb (2000 kg) and can be as long as 12 feet (3.6 m). Females are smaller weighing up to 2800 lb (1250 kg) and as long as 10 feet (3 m). Walrus tusks can be as long as 3 feet (1 m), with males being longer and thicker. The tusks are often seen as a status symbol, with longer tusks giving greater status to males. Any broken tusks will result in a male being lower in the pecking order.

Walruses live in a discontinuous pattern around the sub-arctic and arctic regions in the Northern Hemisphere. There are two recognized sub-species, the Pacific and Atlantic populations. There is a smaller sub-population in Russia, called the Laptev, but is smaller and not recognized by the IUCN.

Walrus Facts

Pinnipeds are the walrus, seals and sea lions. A common ancestor to all, called the Enaliarctos, was an otter looking creature that lived on both land and water, over 30 million years ago. The walrus we know today has been around for around 2.5 million years.

Walruses are highly social and live in pods, or called a ‘huddle.’ The largest known walrus huddle is in Foxe Valley, Canada with a population of over 5,000 animals.

Walruses depend on the sea ice to rest when hunting for food, to give birth, mate near ice packs, and will even stick their tusks in the ice while they sleep. With global warming and less sea ice, Walruses are being forced to stay near land, and will have a devastating impact on populations.

Other facts include:

  • Diet includes clams, shrimp, soft coral, sea cucumbers, crabs, and other mollusks
  • Per dive a walrus can eat 60 clams using their mouths and tongues as a piston to get to the meat inside; in one hunting trip they can eat up to 6000 clams
  • Walruses have air sacs around their esophagus called pharyngeal pouches that they can inflate with 13 gallons of air, allowing themselves to bob in water while they rest or sleep
  • Can live up to 40 years
  • Skin is thick, up to 4 inches and they have 6 inches of blubber
  • Walrus whiskers are used to help search for food on the ocean floor, and can have up to 15 rows and numbering gup to 700 whiskers

Walrus Conservation

Walruses are listed as vulnerable with a population of around 225,000.

Conservation Tips

  • Energy efficiency to combat global warming. Give your car a break. Combine trips whenever possible. Use mass transit, walk or bike whenever possible. Leaving your car at home just 2 days a week will save 1,590 lbs. of greenhouse gas emissions each year!
  • Keep your car well-maintained to maximize its fuel efficiency, safety, and reliability. Check your tire pressure regularly to avoid the wear and tear and decreased gas mileage that can result from under-inflated tires.

Organizations to Support

World Wildlife Foundation

Indianapolis Zoo

Videos

E.T. the Walrus

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