Corey Accardo, NMML/AFSC/NMFS/NOAA
A gigantic group of Pacific walruses, foiled from reaching prime feeding grounds by missing ice, gathered September 23 near Point Lay, Alaska, on the shore of the Chukchi Sea.
The beach’s popularity is due to necessity. Typically the walruses scour the seafloor at a popular feeding ground known as the Hanna Shoal, about 240 kilometers from Point Lay, and take breaks between meals on slabs of floating sea ice. But recently, warming temperatures and shrinking summer ice cover have forced the animals to seek solid ground during feeding season. Scientists first observed walruses colonizing Point Lay in 2007.
Scientists spotted this year’s herd on September 13 and estimated the crowd contained about 10,000 walruses. Since then, the group, known as a haul out, has waxed and waned, with as many as 35,000 animals observed on September 27