UPDATE: Trampling – Not Climate Change or Poaching – Likely Cause of Icy Cape Walrus Deaths

Click to enlarge - Dead walruses litter the beach Thursday, September 17, 2009, on the shore of Icy Cape - Image: Tony Fischbach of the U.S. Geological Survey and distributed via The Associated Press

Click to enlarge - Dead walruses litter the beach Thursday, September 17, 2009, on the shore of Icy Cape - Image: Tony Fischbach of the U.S. Geological Survey and distributed via The Associated Press

WUWT readers may recall this story from last month:

Climate Alarmists rush to judgment on dead walruses, ignore other possibilities

The issue has been settled. No mention of climate change or global warming.

From a joint press release  at http://alaska.fws.gov/index_walrus.pdf (h/t to Robert E. Phelan)

Trampling Likely Cause of Icy Cape Walrus Deaths

Trampling by other walruses was the most likely cause of death of 131 walruses carcasses found on the shore near Icy Cape, Alaska, according to an investigative team. The carcasses, the majority of which were young animals, were discovered along the beach above the high-tide line on Sept. 14 by a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) survey crew in the area.

In response to the discovery, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put together a team comprised of representatives from USFWS, USGS, the Alaska SeaLife Center and the North Slope Borough to determine the extent and cause of the die-off. The National Marine Fisheries Service provided additional financial and technical support, with hunters from Barrow and Wainwright also assisting in the investigation.

An aerial survey of the Chukchi Sea coast conducted by USFWS and NSB confirmed the die-off was localized to the Icy Cape region.

To determine the cause of death, a smaller team mobilized to examine as many carcasses as possible and conduct necropsies – animal autopsies. Veterinarians and biologists from ASLC, USGS and NSB deployed to the area, with hunters from Wainwright and Barrow to ensure their safety. The six-member team examined 71 carcasses and performed nine detailed necropsies.

Because the necropsies showed extensive bruising and all of the carcasses were calves or yearlings, the investigative team concluded that the cause of death was consistent with trampling by other walruses.

Trampling-related injuries and mortalities are not uncommon at coastal walrus haulouts. The potential for injuries and mortalities appears greatest in large herds of animals with a mix of walruses of different age and sex. Young animals appear to be more susceptible to trampling than older animals.

The cause of the disturbance or disturbances leading to the trampling deaths is unknown. Investigators found no evidence of hunting or other recent human activities near the carcasses. Photographs and additional information are available from Bruce Woods at the number above

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77 thoughts on “UPDATE: Trampling – Not Climate Change or Poaching – Likely Cause of Icy Cape Walrus Deaths

  1. Ok so my hunting theory was completely wrong.
    See when you are wrong just say it, why attempt to defend your mistake?
    If I was a member of the AGW “critical thinker” crowd I could argue they did not check all the corpses, I could claim that the shots from hunters caused the stampede were taken from a grassy knoll or some such nonsense.
    FTR The Original claim is not invalidated… the retreat of the sea ice has lead to more and more of the population being on these haulouts and lead directly to the over crowding that contributed to the deaths. I think that summarized their original position.

  2. Silly! They were running from the heat and got trampled.
    Or the heat drove them crazy.
    Or …
    Or …
    That reminds me:
    The single leading cause of death is conception.

  3. The impression that it was AGW will be left as there is no impact to the truthful reporting that comes at a later date. The agenda driven first reports breathlessly wins the debate while the facts are trampled by the herd.

  4. Lets see: polar bear populations are increasing, walrus populations seem to be increasing, temperatures are supposedly increasing… OMG, we have to hunt down these enemies of Gaia before they set the earth on fire!

  5. In your 9.19.09 post on this subject, you quoted Shaye Wolf, spokeswoman for the Center for Biological Diversity, who said, “It provides another indicator that climate change is taking a brutal toll on the Arctic.”
    In reviewing their web site, one amazing thing I noticed is that the staff, alone, for the Center for Biological Diversity has 55 people! This rivals staffs of some fairly large businesses! Who would have thought that a group studying “biological diversity” would have enough funds to hire so many people that they require a staff of 55!
    Who funds these groups anyway? Where does all the money come from? What product or service do they produce that has enough demand that people pay for it in such amounts to cover all these employees? I’m just asking….

    • Being perhaps the only one here who as actually written a book on Walruses (AND IT’S WALRUSES NOT WALRI!), I can assure people that they have been congregating by the thousands as long as we have known about them.
      Hard to imagine a stampede not causing a few deaths.
      BTW the book was just for elementary school kids, nothing high level.

  6. FTR The Original claim is not invalidated… the retreat of the sea ice has lead to more and more of the population being on these haulouts and lead directly to the over crowding that contributed to the deaths.
    You are right. That is their claim, and as far as the story goes, nothing refutes it. However, there is more to their claim than just that: walrus populations will be threatened because they are far more vulnerable when they haul out on land instead of ice.
    There are two things worth noting here. First, none of the dead walruses had been killed by anything other than trampling; that is hardly the sign of underpopulation. Second, because the presence of walruses is episodic, even if they do haul out on land, they can’t possibly support an increased predator population.

  7. I can almost hear the MSM, if they mention this at all, giving the standard reply.
    “Yes , but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t climate change that forced all the walruses onto the beach in the first place”.

  8. Of course the stampeding was due to the lingering effects of the wicked policies of Bushitler and Darth Cheney.
    FredC,
    Think of the implications of $50 billion being spent on AGW so far.
    A staff of 55 people to watch the evils of CO2 is nothing, in terms of $50 billion.

  9. Nah! I was right all along.
    Vampires!
    When Bela Lugosi came out of the cave at midnight it started a stampede. In the dark the walroids couldn’t see each other and some got trampled. The vampires have been driven to higher latitudes by Glombule Warting. QED
    (Those superstitious vets daren’t examine the cave, though)

  10. The probably stampeded when a boat full of environmentalists buzzed up to the beach to get pictures of the herd in their natural state before Global Warming destroys their natural habitat.
    Shiny
    William

  11. Well, the carcasses were not fed upon, so it was not
    bears. Maybe a human induced stampede caused by
    people doing aerial surveys to check on the health of
    the population.

  12. Look! You people are down playing the seriousness of global warming! If it really warms up then Greenland and Antarctica might de-ice. Siberia might become livable. Crop yields might go up. Sea lanes across the Arctic Ocean might open up. New mineral deposits might be uncovered. Happiness might increase.
    On the other hand, cold has no downside.
    Seriously , what is the worse case scenario of global warming vs global cooling?

  13. Jeez, jeez, You constantly surprise me. A walrus book. Whodathunkit?
    In another e-mail, Mr. Fischbach indicated that there would be a detailed report on the incident being released, but that it had to undergo an internal review first and he promised to get me a copy when it was available. I get the impression there is more to the walrus than we think…. it would be really cool if we could get Mr. Fischbach to post something about them… maybe get Jeez in his persona of Jeez to moderate a question and answer session.
    As for the suggestion that anyone at USGS may have triggered the stampede, however inadvertantly, …. always possible, I suppose, but those guys (and gals) have devoted their lives to the creatures. A little harsh in my book.

  14. We no longer have freak accidents in nature or the environment. Its all because of Climate Change. Forget the truth. Just announce ( insert incident ) and claim Climate is ‘likely responsible’ and regardless of the facts, consider the mission accomplished.
    The relentless bombardment from Alarmists in the media shall soon backfire. Its human condition. How can everything be related to Climate Change. When any concept has no option but the concept unto itself, its only natural for the mind to consider an alternative. While I’m sure some Climate Change believers might scoff at a sceptic, the mind will find an alternative to rationalize the preplexity of one ideology responsible for everything. If it wasn’t for the human condition, which is to challenge the boundries of mans limitations, we would still be living in caves and yankin our women by the hair to the lair.
    So know this, every time you hear ‘climate is likely responsible’, a mind is questioning the ‘consensus’.

  15. Back2Bat (12:38:06) :
    “… On the other hand, cold has no downside….” uh, I gotta suspect you’re Australian. Or a hardcore winter-sports enthusiast.

  16. “uh, I gotta suspect you’re Australian. Or a hardcore winter-sports enthusiast.” Robert
    Nope. I have just lived in Tucson too long!
    With springtime hope
    I face the fall.
    Nay, much more than that,
    I’d rather face winter’s embrace
    than broil in my own fat.

  17. One downside to cold would be having to deal with a mile of glacier above your head. I imagine land values in Canada the the Northern portion of the USA would take a bit of a hit unless you owned a nuclear powered snowblower.

  18. Can’t we find a way to blame man for the trampling? Maybe we scared them and caused the trampling. Or better yet, make a case for lack of habitat(caused by man and somehow link to burning of fossil fuels) that forced the Walrus’ to trample at that particular spot.

  19. Back2Bat (13:57:55) :
    Hey, I hitch-hiked through Arizona once. Best air I ever breathed was in Flagstaff…

  20. Back2Bat (12:38:06) :
    Obviously you haven’t been paying attention. The Maunder minimum caused massive deaths from starvation and disease. So did the little ice age at the end of the 18th century. Cold is much worse. Ask the vikings in Greenland. Oh yeah, they all died off from the change from a warm climate to a cold one.

  21. “Obviously you haven’t been paying attention.” BarryW
    I thought my clues that I was speaking facetiously were adequate, particularly the transition word “Seriously” which would indicate to some that the preceding remarks were not serious.

  22. Robert,
    The winters in Arizona are sublime but the summers, except at altitude, such as Flagstaff, are brutal.

  23. The discussion so far:
    They were scared by a shrubbery!
    We don’t know.
    Global warming caused them to go on the beach.
    Global warming scared them.
    The bad guys did it.
    Prove it ain’t so!
    Darned tourists.

  24. “One downside to cold would be having to deal with a mile of glacier above your head.” William
    Think of the additional stories above your house that you could carve, 520 per mile.

  25. Phil? Oh Phil, where are you now?
    In the original posting you were all over the comments, making unreasonable assertions based upon the low resolution photograph and your AGW biases. You lectured other commenters as if they were students of yours in high school. Among other unsupportable assertions, you stated that the last tide had washed away evidence, and I pointed out to you at the time that the carcasses all appeared to be above the high tide line, and the team who went on site confirms out my observation.
    What say you now Phil? Phil? (…………Is that a cricket I hear?)
    Dan Murphy

  26. Yes but the reason why those were fighting each other was for who get’s to sit on one of the last icebergs. You don’t believe me ask Goracle!

  27. The Walrus and the Carpenter
    Walked on a mile or so,
    And then they rested on a rock
    Conveniently low:
    And all the little Oysters stood
    And waited in a row.
    “The time has come,” the Walrus said,
    “To talk of many things:
    Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
    Of cabbages–and kings–
    And why the sea is boiling hot–
    And whether pigs have wings.”
    “But wait a bit,” the Oysters cried,
    “Before we have our chat;
    For some of us are out of breath,
    And all of us are fat!”
    “No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
    They thanked him much for that.
    “A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
    “Is what we chiefly need:
    Pepper and vinegar besides
    Are very good indeed–
    Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
    We can begin to feed.”
    “But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
    Turning a little blue.
    “After such kindness, that would be
    A dismal thing to do!”
    “The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
    “Do you admire the view?

  28. Fred C (11:13:39) : Who funds these groups anyway? Where does all the money come from?
    You may wish to read this article, Fred:
    http://www.capitalpress.info/content/ml-enviro-lawsuits-101609

    Taxes fund environmental suits – Environmental law firms reap billions in fees to fund lawsuits
    By Mitch Lies, Capital Press, October 15, 2009
    The federal government has paid out billions of dollars to environmental groups for attorney fees and costs, according to data assembled by a Cheyenne, Wyoming, lawyer.
    Karen Budd-Falen of Budd-Falen Law Offices said the government between 2003 and 2007 paid more than $4.7 billion in taxpayer money to environmental law firms — and that’s just in the lawsuits she tracked.
    The actual figure, she said, is far greater.
    “I think we only found that the iceberg exists,” she said. “I don’t think we have any idea how much money is being spent. But I think it’s huge.” …
    “That money is not going into programs to protect people, wildlife, plants and animals,” Budd-Falen said, “but to fund more lawsuits.” …
    Budd-Falen documented that between 2000 and 2009, three tax-exempt, non-profit environmental groups — Western Watersheds Project, Forest Guardians and Center for Biological Diversity — filed more than 700 cases against the federal government. …
    The firms also are accessing government funds through the Judgment Fund, Budd-Falen said,. The fund is a line-item appropriation in the federal budget used for paying claims against the government.
    Much of the funds to pay the attorney fees, she said, are being pulled from the budgets of cash-strapped regional offices of natural resource agencies.
    “Those budget items ought to be used for range improvement projects, trails or campgrounds, whatever the agency is supposed to be doing,” she said.
    Budd-Falen in her research also documented salaries paid to top environmental executives. On top of that list was the $446,072 salary paid the president of the Environmental Defense Fund. Second was the $439,327 salary paid the president of the World Wildlife Fund. …

  29. The real questions to ask of Environmental Groups are: What percentage of your income is not spent on your bloated staff and what do you do with it?

  30. Back2Bat (14:49:10) :
    “One downside to cold would be having to deal with a mile of glacier above your head.” William
    Think of the additional stories above your house that you could carve, 520 per mile.

    The problem with the additional 520 stories per mile would be that were moving at different speeds, with lower layers move slower.

  31. “A record federal deficit and we’re paying people to examine walrus carcasses.” Nathan Stone
    Stimulus, my man! You would never make a good Keynesian. Ya see, the government’s job is to prop up aggregate demand when the private sector gets spooked by “animal spirits” and tries to save (“hoard”) its money.

  32. @Back2Bat No downside? Then you come out here and help me fix my pellet insert. Its [snip] freezing in Boston and we have had snow already in MA.

  33. “@Back2Bat No downside? Then you come out here and help me fix my pellet insert.” ShrFnr
    I suppose I mean, “No down side for me!” Northern Georgia is my next planned area to live in.
    Come the cold
    I will be happy.
    With global warmists
    I will be snappy.
    They will cry,
    not I.
    Their frozen tears
    will join the sky’s.
    Sigh!

  34. “tarpon (16:52:19) :
    Missing tusks, might be a clue.”
    Man made Co2 emissions caused the air to warm, which lead to the skin/bone expanding. The tusks just simply fell out.
    My Subaru, LCD TV, Dell lappy, fridge, gas cooker, patio heater caused the tusks to fall out.

  35. Nathan Stone (16:29:46) :
    A record federal deficit and we’re paying people to examine walrus carcasses.
    Nathan, would you be happier not knowing? Bailing out banks and car companies is a travesty and a waste. Bankers especially don’t seem to have learned any humility. I’d have been unhappy if they hadn’t sent anyone out…. and it wasn’t like they were on an adventure hike; I found this sentence fascinating: “…Veterinarians and biologists from ASLC, USGS and NSB deployed to the area, with hunters from Wainwright and Barrow to ensure their safety…”

  36. No doubt global warming is the cause. The Walruses normally haul out on ice and when stampeding back to the water the little ones pop out from under the big ones like little bars of soap.
    Just knew there had to be an AGW explanation!

  37. Tom in Texas (15:14:25) :

    That’s consistent with the Global Warming Models.

    Pul-leeze, get the story right! That should be:

    Sigh… that’s not inconsistent with the Global Warming Models…harumph harumph harumph.

  38. It is apparent there were too many walruses do to a walrus population explosion caused be man-made CO2 nourishing the sea life food chain. We must act. Everyone get your rifles and speers, the be some walrus hunting to do.
    The Beatles-I am the Walrus

  39. “This is the second time in three years that walruses have congregated in large numbers on the Alaska shore rather than the edge of the sea ice, which moves north in the summer as temperatures rise and south in the fall as temperatures cool.
    “Walruses cannot swim indefinitely and historically have used sea ice as a platform for diving in the Bering and Chukchi seas for clams and other food on the ocean floor.
    “In recent years, however, sea ice has receded far beyond the outer continental shelf forcing walruses to choose between riding the ice over waters too deep to reach clams or onto shore. New research Thursday showed the ice cap this summer was slightly larger than in 2007 or 2008. But scientists with the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which released that information, said a slower melt off of sea ice has ocurred in given years before without changing the downward trend of recent decades.”
    Anchorage Daily News (17 Sep, 2009), link on 19 Sep WUWT
    Climate change is relevant to this story only if it is the reason that they are on shore.

  40. Because the necropsies showed extensive bruising and all of the carcasses were calves or yearlings, the investigative team concluded that the cause of death was consistent with trampling by other walruses.
    Are activists going to hold the responsible party accountable?

  41. TerryBixler (11:07:46) :
    The agenda driven first reports breathlessly wins the debate while the facts are trampled by the herd.
    Done in by political correctness. Will activists hold that responsible party accountable?

  42. Please correct me if I am wrong. Each summer when the Arctic ice melts, the same amount of coastline is exposed. If there is any overcrowding for the walrusus it will be from population growth. I understand that when they feel threatened they rush to the safety of the water. Low flying aircraft are a threat.
    Excellent photo oportunity of the crushed pups left on beach. [hawk spit]

  43. Francis (21:11:21) :
    “This is the second time in three years that walruses have congregated in large numbers on the Alaska shore rather than the edge of the sea ice, which moves north in the summer as temperatures rise and south in the fall as temperatures cool.
    “Walruses cannot swim indefinitely and historically have used sea ice as a platform for diving in the Bering and Chukchi seas for clams and other food on the ocean floor.
    “In recent years, however, sea ice has receded far beyond the outer continental shelf forcing walruses to choose between riding the ice over waters too deep to reach clams or onto shore. New research Thursday showed the ice cap this summer was slightly larger than in 2007 or 2008. But scientists with the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which released that information, said a slower melt off of sea ice has ocurred in given years before without changing the downward trend of recent decades.”
    Anchorage Daily News (17 Sep, 2009), link on 19 Sep WUWT
    Climate change is relevant to this story only if it is the reason that they are on shore.”
    Nah, climate is always changing. Associating this story with AGW is just hype, propaganda.
    And it seems there may be a problem with the Anchorage News story above. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walrus
    “In the non-reproductive season (late summer and fall) the walrus tends to migrate away from the ice and form massive aggregations of tens of thousands of individuals on rocky beaches or outcrops. The nature of the migration between the reproductive period and the summer period can be a rather long distance and dramatic.”
    It appears normal for Walruses to be away from ice, whether it exists in range or not.
    A large population on the North Alaskan beach may be rare, but then again we only have at the moment the news author’s word on that. For effect, see the Wiki picture:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Walross_kolonie.jpg

  44. Count the dollars! (Then to see where their interests REALLY fall, follow the money.)
    “In response to the discovery, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put together a team comprised of representatives from USFWS, USGS, the Alaska SeaLife Center and the North Slope Borough to determine the extent and cause of the die-off. The National Marine Fisheries Service provided additional financial and technical support, with hunters from Barrow and Wainwright also assisting in the investigation.
    An aerial survey of the Chukchi Sea coast conducted by USFWS and NSB confirmed the die-off was localized to the Icy Cape region.
    To determine the cause of death, a smaller team mobilized to examine as many carcasses as possible and conduct necropsies – animal autopsies. Veterinarians and biologists from ASLC, USGS and NSB deployed to the area, with hunters from Wainwright and Barrow to ensure their safety. ”
    —…—…
    How many people were involved?
    How many contracts?
    How much energy, material, and efforts was spent in looking at, flying, and analyzing just these 130 dead animals?
    Would these same ecologists spend any time or money investigating fraud in AGW records? Would they spend any moeny investigating 130 dead people who died in Zimbabwe or Sudan?

  45. The existence of large numbers of walrus at Icy Cape appears to be nothing more than a normal occurence used by several agencies, organizations and news reporters to propagandize AGW.
    “Walruses are known to congregate on isolated beaches and barrier islands along Alaska’s Chukchi Sea coast in late summer when concentrations of sea-ice are low. Between late July and early October, large walrus herds, each including as many as several hundred animals, may be encountered at resting areas (haulouts)
    near Cape Lisburne (68° 52’ 53” N, 160° 11′ 39” W), Corwin Bluff (68° 52’ 30” N, 165° 06′ 02” W) and Icy Cape (70° 19’ 45” N, 161° 52′ 55” W).”
    http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ato/service_units/systemops/fs/alaskan/advisories/walrus/media/lisburnewalrus-psa.pdf
    from
    http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ato/service_units/systemops/fs/alaskan/advisories/walrus/

  46. Climate Heretic (10:13:32) :
    FTR The Original claim is not invalidated… the retreat of the sea ice has lead to more and more of the population being on these haulouts and lead directly to the over crowding that contributed to the deaths.
    A couple of alternatives come to mind.
    1. An increase in the walrus population also leads to a higher number of casualties in a stampede, although the kill ratio itself may remain constant.
    2. The number of casualties may not be excessive at all, but an increase in aircraft overflights of remote areas now allow direct observation of previously unobserved stampede sites before the carcasses were scavenged into bone chips.
    3. Balrogs.

  47. Global warming also does alters whale movements causing them to beach themselves etc.
    http://www.ecoearth.info/shared/reader/welcome.aspx?linkid=123279
    Move northwards.
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg18925434.600-whales-move-north-as-oceans-warm.html
    Other animals head for the hills.
    http://www.livescience.com/environment/061214_animals_retreat.html
    Even premature……………………………hibernation in doormice
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2006/jun/08/climatechange.climatechangeenvironment
    Is it not baffling how how these creatures survived in the distant past when the planet experienced periods of much greater warmth.
    What utter (a)balon(ey)

  48. Climate Heretic (10:13:32) :
    “FTR The Original claim is not invalidated… the retreat of the sea ice has lead to more and more of the population being on these haulouts and lead directly to the over crowding that contributed to the deaths.”
    What overcrowding ? Where is evidence that “more and more” of the population are “on these haulouts”? Or are you just making a lot of hot air?

  49. In the Adriatic, they found 15 species of fish, including puffer fish, that the sea was previously too cold to accommodate.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2006/jun/08/climatechange.climatechangeenvironment
    Puffers (Spholoides pachygaster) were one of several odd species inhabiting the Adriatic — Adriatic puffers were originally described in a monograph from 1870.
    http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=13750779
    Puffers do quite well in the Atlantic, too — we used to catch them in Long Island Sound, which is quite a bit colder than the Adriatic.

  50. Glenn (23:44:50)
    There is a terminology problem in this discussion. Is ‘climate change’ equivalent to ‘Global Warming (whatever the cause)’, or to ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’?
    “…the downward trend of recent decades (in melt off of sea ice)…”
    ‘Recent decades’ sounds less than the ’30 years’ in the formal definition of ‘climate’.
    And, more generally, ‘climate’ sounds rather permanent–even if its changing.
    Conclusion: We’ll let climate change be equivalent to AGW.
    So my comment should have been:
    Global Warming (whatever the cause) is relevant to this story only if is the reason that they are on shore, at this time of the year.

  51. Bill Tuttle – I pick Option 3 Balrogs.
    Glenn – I was restating the AGWers position, which has not been invalidated by this information, the reason being that it cannot be invalidated and that is the beauty of the “logic” behind the science and the attribution of every event to AGW. Plus you took my comment out of context.
    Side note: Please read the entire comment before going off on it, makes you look bad. I know because I have done it myself.

  52. September 9th was the first article published by the associated press and The Anchorage Daily News. Satellite tracking was used to imply a large pull-out by the walruses was happening. A U.S. Geological Survey walrus researcher confirmed the pull-out , and stated “…it’s a result of the sea ice retreating off the continental shelf.” Global Warming/Climate Change was implied.
    The Greenie Tree Huggers know a picture is worth a thousand words in their campaign. Look at the mileage Al Gore got out of the Polar Bear on the chunk of ice.
    On September 17th the article about the carcasses was published writing an investigation into the probable stampede is pending. Shaye Wolf, spokeswoman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “It provides another indicator that climate change is taking a brutal toll on the Arctic.”
    Let my imagination go back to the seven days prior to September 17th. “…get the plane a little lower. We need a better AGW picture of the walruses. Oh my God! What have we done!”

  53. Over on the Russian side, in 2007:
    ANCHORAGE, Alaska–In what some scientists see as another alarming consequence of global warming, thousands of Pacific walruses above the Arctic Circle were killed in stampedes earlier this year after the disappearance of sea ice caused them to crowd onto the shoreline in extraordinary numbers.
    The deaths took place during the late summer and fall on the Russian side of the Bering Strait…
    Unlike seals, walruses cannot swim indefinitely. The giant tusked mammals typically clamber onto the sea ice to rest, or haul themselves onto the land for just a few weeks at a time.
    But ice disappeared in the Chukchi Sea this year because of warm summer weather, ocean currents and persistent eastern winds…
    As a result, walruses came ashore earlier and stayed longer, congregating in extremely high numbers, with herds as big as 40,000 at Point Shmidt, a spot that had not been used by walruses as a ‘haulout’ for a century, scientists said.
    Walruses are vulnerable to stampedes when they gather in such large numbers…
    Biologist Anatoly Kochnev of Russia’s Pacific Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography estimated 3000 to 4000 walruses out of population of perhaps 200,000 died, or two or three times the usual number on shore line haulouts.
    He said the animals only started appearing on shore for extended periods in the late 1990’s, after the sea ice receded.
    “The reason is global warming,” Kochnev said…
    Scientists said the death of so many walruses–particularly calves– is alarming in itself. But if the trend continues, and walruses no longer have summer sea ice from which to dive for clams and snails, they could strip coastal areas of food, and that could reduce their numbers even further.
    No large-scale walrus die-offs were seen in Alaska during the same period, apparently because the animals congregated in smaller groups on the American side of the Bering Strait, with the biggest known herd at about 2500.
    The Seattle Times (14 Dec 2007)

  54. Everything bad or unusual is due to global warming. Since it can’t be disproved, it must therefore be true. The fact that there may be no direct causation is of no importance, correlation is good enough. Next we will hear dire tales about the lemmings.
    We’re not even sure that these kinds of events are all that unusual since we haven’t studies the environment in such detail with such accuracy before. Of course we are going to see some unusual things, we’re looking for them. Simply ascribing the global warming as agent of doom tag is a knee-jerk reaction.

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