Maggie Prevenas, April 18, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 18, 2007

Species Profile: The Walrus

Yesterday the helicopter crew flew over some walrus. Walrus are touchy feely kinda animals. They love to get together in great big piles and just sprawl all over each other. It’s also a way they keep warm. You can read more about the walrus below.

Scientific name: Odobenus rosmarus

This healthy walrus is hanging out in its favorite place, the ice!
This healthy walrus is hanging out in its favorite place, the ice!


Everyone knows what a walrus looks like! Its long ivory tusks are used for many things, including protection from attack by polar bears, killer whales and local hunters in kayaks.

Walrus are very slow on land because they are so big and clumsy, but in the water they are very fast and strong.  They can dive down 300 feet to retrieve their favorite food, clams, from the sea bottom. A walrus can eat 4,000 clams in one feeding!

Air sacs in the walrus’ neck allow it to sleep with its head held up in the water. Nursing females use this standing position as they nurse. The pups, born approximately every two years, nurse upside down.

Walrus will dive into the water at the faintest scent of a human.  Walrus numbers were very reduced by commercial hunters until 1972 when the Marine Mammal Act started protecting them.  Now only native people in the Arctic may hunt them and the populations have grown in size. Native peoples in the Arctic hunt the walrus for food and put every part of its body to good use. They use the tusks for the delicate art of carving called “scrimshaw.”


Uglat is walrus poop. Scientists can tell where walruses have been by these dark brown patches. They can also tell what they’ve been eating.
Uglat is walrus poop. Scientists can tell where walruses have been by these dark brown patches. They can also tell what they’ve been eating.


DESCRIPTION: Walruses are large animals with a rounded head, short muzzle, short neck and small eyes. They are able to turn their hind flippers forward to aid in movement on land. Their front flippers are large and each has five digits. Males have special air sacs that are used to make a bell-like sound. Both males and females have large tusks that are used for defense, cutting through ice and to aid in getting out of the water. The tusks can be more than three feet long in males and about two and a half feet long in females. Walruses are cinnamon brown in color.

SIZE: Females are smaller than male walruses. Male walruses stand up to five feet tall, are nine to 11 feet long and weigh 1,700 to 3,700 pounds. Females weigh 880 to 2,700 pounds and are seven to ten feet long.


LIFESPAN: Walruses can live for 40 years.

RANGE: Coastal regions of the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas.

HABITAT: Moving pack ice in the shallow waters found near land, coastal beaches. They spend the majority of their time in the water.

FOOD: Clams, mussels and other bottom dwelling organisms that are located by their sensitive whiskers.

BEHAVIOR: Most groups of walruses migrate north in the summer and south in the winter. During the nonbreeding season, males and females tend to stay in groups segregated from one another. Many interactions between walruses are agonistic and may end in fighting.

OFFSPRING: Walruses breed in January or February. Following a 15 to 16 month gestation, a single calf is born. Females are very protective of their young. Female walruses help one another in raising calves. Babies are weaned from their mother at about two years of age.

THREATS: Historically, walruses were hunted commercially for their ivory tusks, oil and hides.

19th Century Naturalist Edward Nelson Recounts:

“To many of the Eskimo, especially on the Arctic shores, this animal is of almost vital importance and upon Saint Lawrence Island, just south of Bering Straits, over eight hundred Eskimo died in one winter, owing to their missing the fall Walrus hunt.

To these northern people this animal furnishes material for many uses.  Its flesh is food for men and dogs; its oil is also used for food and for light in oil lamps and heating the houses.  Its skin when tanned and oiled makes a durable cover for their large skin boats; its intestines make waterproof clothing, window-covers, and floats.  Its tusks make lance or spear points or are carved into a great variety of useful and ornamental objects, and its bones are used to make heads for spears and other purposes.”

This material taken directly from the following URLs, just copied and pasted. Make sure you give them credit should you use it in a report!

%d bloggers like this: