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The brown patch, on the photo below, is a congregation of an estimated 35,000 walruses that came ashore on a beach near Point Lay, an Inupiat Eskimo village, 300 miles southwest of Barrow and 700 miles northwest of Anchorage, in northwest Alaska. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, these animals are now coming ashore in record numbers as they couldn’t find sea ice to rest on in the Arctic.

Pacific walruses spend their winters in the Bering Sea. Although they are good swimmers, they cannot swim indefinitely and would occasionally haul themselves out of the sea and rest on chunks of sea ice floating in the Arctic waters. Females give birth on sea ice and use ice as a diving platform to hunt for snails, clams and worms on the shallow continental shelf. As temperatures rise in summer, the edge of the sea ice recedes north. Females and their young ride the edge of the sea ice into the Chukchi Sea, the body of water north of the Bering Strait.

walrus-ashore-alaska-2

Photo credit: NOAA / AP Photo

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