Walruses flock to Alaskan shorelines–Why?

Despite stunning visual evidence of the decline of polar ice, some people refuse to believe it. Some point to a short-term increase in ice after an unprecedented melt in 2007 to refute the 34 percent long-term decline documented by scientists. But instead of listening to scientists, believers, or deniers, we can observe those who live with the issue–walruses:
Sept. 10, 2009 — Thousands of walruses are congregating on Alaska’s northwest coast, a sign that their Arctic sea ice environment has been altered by climate change.
Chad Jay, a U.S. Geological Survey walrus researcher, said that about 3,500 walruses were near Icy Cape on the Chukchi Sea, some 140 miles southwest of Barrow.
Animals the agency tagged with satellite transmitters also were detected on shore at Cape Lisburne about 150 miles farther down the coast.
Walruses for years came ashore intermittently during their fall southward migration but not so early and not in such numbers.
“This is actually all new,” Jay said. “They did this in 2007, and it’s a result of the sea ice retreating off the continental shelf.”
Federal managers and researchers say walruses hauling out on shore could lead to deadly stampedes and too much pressure on prey within swimming range.
via Melting Ice Forces Walruses to Alaska Shore: Discovery News.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to consider a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity to list the Pacific walrus as an endangered or threatened species because of habitat loss due to melting ice. A final decision is expected to take about two years. Walruses will await the decision, it seems, on the rocky shores of Alaska.

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