(Photocredit: Diana Haecker/AP)
“Poachers may have killed these 25 walruses for their heads and tusks,” writes Esha Dey for VICE News. “The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has launched an investigation into the deaths of 25 walruses in a remote region in the northwestern coast of Alaska.”
While killing walruses is illegal under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, Alaskan Natives (Inuits) remain allowed to hunt these animals (as well as narwhals), as they make up an important part of the diet of the natives, and the tusks and bones and hides are used to make traditional goods. However, across the board, “head hunting”—killing these animals purely for their tusks—is illegal.
“‘Walruses use ice as a platform to feed off…it’s like sitting in a bus and going from one supermarket to the next,’ Horstmann-Dehn said. ‘They can jump off the floating ice and feed and again get on it and digest, and then they float on the ice into a new area and feed again.’
But climate change, which is warming the Arctic twice as fast as the rest of the world. Sea ice and glaciers in the Arctic are receding, the permafrost is melting, and sea levels are rising.
A 2012 study of Pacific walruses conducted by researchers from the US Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center and Russia’s Pacific Research Fisheries Center found that the lack of sea ice in September and October caused walruses to forage in areas nearer to the shore, instead of going further offshore as they did in the past.”