Feds: Lack of sea ice changes walrus behavior

Topics: From the Wires,

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Federal scientists say a lack of summer sea ice is changing the behavior of Pacific walruses, but they don’t know what the effect will be.

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and Russia tagged 251 walruses in the Chukchi (CHUCK’-chee) Sea off Alaska’s northern coast and tracked their movements from 2008-2011. The results were released at a news conference Wednesday in Anchorage.

A release issued ahead of the news conference says the study shows walruses are arriving earlier than normal at northern feeding grounds in the summer. When sea ice melted completely, the walruses hauled out on land and foraged for food closer to shore.

Scientists say they don’t yet understand the impact of the new behavior, but noted possible higher mortality rates for younger walruses from being trampled.

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