One creature you won’t want to miss and will have a hard time avoiding, especially in the spring, are the walruses. These huge animals have fascinated people and inspired artists for centuries, but their biggest fans by far are other walruses. They are one of nature’s most social creatures.
The massive mammals who can grow to weigh over 3,000 pounds, stretch 12 feet long and stand over six feet high, are commonly found on ice flows, where they cram together by the thousands. They lay side-by-side, basking in the sun and making noise — tons and tons of noise. They communicate through a series of loud bellows and snorts.
But for all their ability to share space, they are aggressively territorial when it comes to mating. Those whiskers aren’t just for looking handsome. In fact, a walrus’s whiskers are not just hairs, but sensitive organs that help it monitor the water movement and find food. Walruses subsist on a diet of clams, mussels, krill, crabs, worms and snails. They will also eat octopus and fish and sometimes hunt seals.
Their tusks grow throughout their lives and can reach a length of 3 feet. As for the rest of their appearance, their blubbery bodies protect them from the Arctic cold and their circulatory system allows them to adjust their own internal thermostat, which makes them change colors. They often change from light pink to cinnamon brown to beige depending on how hot or cold they are. Walruses can live up to 20-30 years in the wild. While they don’t have very good eyesight, their hearing and sense of smell are excellent.
Walruses In Trouble
Climate change and noise pollution have drastically changed the lives of walruses. Walruses rely on sea ice floes to take them out to their feeding grounds that can be hundreds of miles from shore. These enormous animals feed on clams, worms and other creatures from the sea floor, resting on the ice to avoid exhaustion.
As ice floes continue to melt, walruses have resorted to coming up on the shore to rest. They are doing this by the tens of thousands. This is extremely dangerous to the calves that are often killed when the walruses stampede back into the water after being spooked by sudden noises. Check out more on this issue from the WWF Climate Blog.
Listen to the unusual sounds of a walrus in the water: