Loss of Ice Forces Walruses to Dry Shores

Tens of thousands of Pacific walruses have gathered on a beach in northwest Alaska because they cannot find sea ice for resting.

During a routine aerial inspection of wildlife along Alaskan coast, marine life experts from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) photographed a pod of walruses estimated to contain 35,000 animals.

The beach, known as Point Lay, is about 1,100 kilometers northwest of Anchorage.

Experts say the large marine mammals cannot swim for long periods, so they live on ice floes floating in shallow waters, using them as diving platforms to hunt for snails, clams and worms on the sea bottom.

As warmer summer weather has pushed the edges of the sea ice towards deeper waters, the walruses are forced to rest on dry land.

Similar large pods have been spotted on Arctic beaches since 2007. The huge mass of animals can pose a danger to young walruses, which can be trampled if polar bears, human hunters or low flying aircraft cause the group to stampede.