The bogus fuss over Walrus beach parties: Walrus Haulouts Are Nothing New

From the Global Warming Policy Foundation

Dr Susan Crockford explains why the media coverage and statements by scientists and environmental organizations mislead people about the massive walrus haulout seen in Sept/October 2014.

walrus-fussGWPF paper (PDF) Susan Crockford: On The Beach

GWPF-Video (3 min)

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October 25, 2014 9:14 am

manatee numbers are dangerously low…….uh, no they’re not
polar bears are going extinct……no they’re not
seals are suffering…, they’re not
birds are migrating sooner…..nope
pikas are going to run out of mountain tops……no
mosquitoes are in siberia…..yep
and on and on

Reply to  Latitude
October 25, 2014 9:37 am

You can keep your doctor….. nope ;>]

Reply to  Latitude
October 25, 2014 3:31 pm

‘Don’t Let Anybody Tell You’ That ‘Businesses Create Jobs’ … nyet

October 25, 2014 9:25 am

My family used to fish up in Alaska and I have relatives who have lived up there from time to time. It’s a good thing to see so many walruses. Looks like breeding is going well! I read articles on walruses suffering because of lack of ice I had to laugh! Anyone who has grown up near their mating and hunting grounds knows walruses spend 1/3 of their time on land or ice. The rest of their time is spent bottom feeding on mollusks. A few individual walruses go hunting for seals, it’s an acquired taste I’ve read. Walruses are very social and meet up on land to mate, sun bath, take sand baths, and party out! Sometimes the gatherings get so large individuals get crushed to death. Kind of like people who go to large concerts and the crowd gets excited running over individuals. Most people do not know about any animal behavior and will buy into anything. That’s really sad and people’s ignorance has been used to jerk their emotional strings. Tons of articles on walrus behavior online that says just the opposite of what you read in climate change articles.

Reply to  Red Dust
October 25, 2014 1:47 pm

Indeed Red Dust, it looks like breeding is going well. Susan’s pdf paper suggests that recent haulouts could be a sign of a booming population!

……..Here is the question: are the recent mass gatherings of females and calves on the beaches of western Alaska and the Russian Far East a sign that the population has recovered and is again approaching the limit its habitat can support, as occurred in the 1970s?42 There are indications this is the case. Here is what Fay and colleagues said about large populations:

The steady increase [during the 60s and 70s] was indicated also by the fact that the animals gradually reoccupied nearly all of their former range, including some areas that had been vacant for up to 100 yr (Fay et al. 1986).. .

Walrus populations are presumed to be food-limited, and the events that transpired in the late 1970s and early 1980s appeared to confirm that presumption.
Further evidence of the walrus population having increased greatly was seen in the steadily rising use of traditional haulouts on islands in the Bering Strait region during the 1960s and 1970s……..

October 25, 2014 9:48 am

Jim Steele has a section in his book Landscapes & Cycles about walrus haul outs. It’s worth reading.

October 25, 2014 9:55 am

Alarm! Disaster! Beaches on Ibiza are crowded with desperate humans, forced onto the sand by a catastrophic lack of ice in the bar. The machine broke down. Scientists fear they may not be able to get on with their normal mating rituals without the iced-drink beach bar environment, which, according to scientific consensus, is an essential ingredient of successful breeding for this species. Models predict a danger of extinction.
PS Dad, send more money.

October 25, 2014 10:36 am

What the historical accounts of previous mass walrus haul-outs demonstrate is the massive ignorance of today’s US Geological Survey.
These are supposedly knowledgeable scientists, paid with taxpayer money, that demonstrate they don’t know the most basic facts about the animals they are surveying.

Reply to  ferdberple
October 25, 2014 1:27 pm

When I want to know about marine mammal behavior, I’ll ask a US government Geologist.
Yea, right.

Reply to  RobRoy
October 25, 2014 3:36 pm

The images were from USGS, perhaps shot while on a recon flight (?). This might be just turf-guarding. The quotation was certainly idiotic and outside the purview of USGS.
USGS does a lot of good work. But this indicates to me that the corruption found in so many agencies wrt “global warming” is rotting away the core of the organization.

Gary Pearse
October 25, 2014 10:44 am

I predict with the cooling and expanding ice and snow, that beaches in the Caribbean, Mexico and Mediterranean will be expanding alarmingly. Many may just stay there. Probably they are too relaxed to trample anybody. Whereas the USGS biologists have precipitated thousands of deaths by buzzing the walrus beach holidayers.

george e. smith
Reply to  Gary Pearse
October 25, 2014 4:30 pm

Haven’t you ever noticed, those video footages of water buffalo, zebras, wildebeests, and antelope, running like bloody hell across the African savannah, with nary a lion or cheetah in sight.
But lucky for us, this insane unnecessary, shed some extra pounds exercise ritual, often happens right in front of a passing helicopter, with a Canon photographer trying to get video footage of the savannah grasses growing.
Yes we never would know what wildlife herds do for fun, if it wasn’t for the grant money spent studying grass growing.

Reply to  george e. smith
October 25, 2014 7:14 pm

Seems to happen every time a helicopter with a video camera on board flies over.

Oliver James
October 25, 2014 11:00 am

I have been very interested to learn that the psychiatrists composing new categories for inclusion in the forthcoming DSM-6 have identified people who retain a belief in Anthropogenic Global Warming as suffering from Dissociative identity disorder , They are considered to be suitable for treatment and also eligible for disability compensation.

Newly Retired Engineer
Reply to  Oliver James
October 25, 2014 1:02 pm

Great – more tax dollars down the drain.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Oliver James
October 25, 2014 2:31 pm

I know this is tongue-in-cheek stuff.
Start/ tongue-in-cheek/
I presume most hard core CAGW alarmists suffer from an Anxiety Disorder, which is a psychosis.

Psychosis: characterized by a loss of contact with reality. The person may be delusional, have irrational beliefs that conflict with common sense, or suffer hallucinations.

As an anxiety disorder, the psychosis of someone suffering CAGW Alarmism syndrome could be a “Specific Phobia”.

In the case of CAGW Alarmism it could be a Thermophobia – Fear of heat. It could also be Gnosiophobia- Fear of knowledge for the true believers in AGW, since understanding paleoclimates would cause a cognitive dissonance state with their belief in current-era climate exceptionalism.

End/ tongue-in-cheek./

October 25, 2014 11:05 am

I suppose it might be a bit much to expect a retraction from the USGS. Deceit in the name of saving Gaia or simple scientific incompetence?

October 25, 2014 11:08 am

Back in 1995, I was commercial fishing in the Bering Sea. On the way back to port one trip, we passed near Round Island, a tiny speck in the ocean off of Alaska that is maybe a mile long by three quarters of a mile wide. We were amazed to see that every bit of available coastal land was totally covered with hauled-out walruses. It was a sight to stagger the imagination, walrus without end. I guess they hadn’t gotten the memo about having to haul out on ice …
In any case, as a number of people have pointed out, walruses have hauled out on beaches for as long as we’ve known about them.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
October 25, 2014 12:23 pm

Willis, the haulouts at Round Island are male-only groups – the key issue with the Lay Point haulout was that they were predominantly females and calves.
USGS made hay with the claim that females and calves *always* haul out on sea ice in the fall – that until 2007, they had *never* been seen hauled out on beaches.
However, as I pointed out, events of this type have been documented in the scientific literature.
Susan Crockford, PolarBearScience

Reply to  polarbearscience
October 25, 2014 12:45 pm
Reply to  polarbearscience
October 25, 2014 12:59 pm

Discussion of traditional walrus hunting. Cows were preferred. They did tend to use ice floes more than land, which made hunting them harder, but this preference on the females’ part wasn’t absolute.

Reply to  polarbearscience
October 25, 2014 1:04 pm

The cows’ calves were naturally safer from humans & other predators on ice than on land, although of course polar bears are great swimmers & people had umiaks. Maybe restrictions on hunting at Round Island have made cows more willing to haul out there over the years.

Reply to  polarbearscience
October 25, 2014 3:47 pm

Thank you for taking the time to document the evidence. There should be consequences for those responsible when govt. agencies knowingly deceive.

Reply to  polarbearscience
October 25, 2014 4:53 pm

Thanks, Susan. Always good to hear from the knowledgeable.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
October 26, 2014 4:49 am

“Back in 1995…”
19 years? So wouldn’t that just be considered weather?

Reply to  Paul
October 26, 2014 10:40 am

+10, weather or not …

October 25, 2014 11:25 am

More apparently intentional ignorance, inanity & insanity from the US government, ie lying.
Inupiat & Yupik Eskimos in Alaska have hunted walrus at the marine mammals’ traditional hauling out places for millennia. Both languages have words for “walrus hauling out place”, although I don’t know those words. I suppose that Inuit & other Eskimo groups farther east, in Canada & Greenland, do as well.

October 25, 2014 11:36 am

“Asweryagmiut” in Yupik.

October 25, 2014 12:04 pm

This is not an anomaly. As the location of the average sea ice extent would be hundreds of miles from the shoreline on the date that this haul out was documented, it is especially hard to understand how it can be blamed on global warming.

Reply to  Taphonomic
October 25, 2014 1:59 pm

This point of yours was noted by ‘Steven Goddard’.

“…..There normally isn’t any sea ice within 100 miles of Alaska this time of year, and this year isn’t much different from the 1981-2010 median……”

October 25, 2014 12:12 pm

The history of the earth is rife with massive and swift changes in environment, regardless of Man’s intervention. Indeed, evolution is based upon it! Survival of the fittest and all that. So what if walruses die? They’ll simply have to adapt or pass on. Maybe they’ll “de-evolve” (actually re-evolve) and reacquire feet and hands to replace their flippers. Or maybe wings? Then they can fly away from adverse climes. This is the dichotomy of evolution and environmentalism. So what if Man effects the environment? So what? What’s the difference between Man’s supposed plague and an asteroid? Or a super volcano? Or a shift in solar resonance? Oceanic upheavals? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Either these animals evolve – or they do not. It’s only a matter of time before they develop intelligence and opposable thumbs – or not. Let ’em die. It’s up to random chance, and that ain’t no benevolent mistress. No need to shed tears. Animals have been dying for 3.5 billion years, going into extinction so that others may take their place.

Reply to  Gary
October 25, 2014 12:42 pm

Please pardon the pedantry, but strictly speaking, animals have only been around for at most about a billion years, but possibly just 600 million.
But of course you’re right. Life on earth has survived far greater “disasters” than humans. Walruses have already thrived under climatic changes that put anything humanity might be able to engineer to shame. As indeed has the whole pinniped superfamily in Order Carnivora:
The walrus family (Odobenidae) also arose during the Miocene, & was formerly much more diverse. They survived under conditions much warmer than now. One subfamily went extinct in the Pliocene, about four million years ago, but the subfamily of the modern walrus made a remarkable voyage from its North Pacific origin. It moved south to subtropical & tropical waters, then through the still open Central American Seaway into the Caribbean, whence it spread into the North Atlantic, where the modern walrus evolved. It became adapted to the frigid north, spread along the Arctic Ocean, then reinvaded the North Pacific during the Pleistocene, about a million years ago.
It’s now a single species with three currently recognized subspecies. They’ve been through interglacials a lot warmer & longer-lasting than the Holocene.

Reply to  milodonharlani
October 25, 2014 2:14 pm

Indeed. But let’s look at the Holocene Arctic. Walruses survived ‘ice free’ Arctic ocean summers. You have to wonder what all the current fuss is about.

Reply to  milodonharlani
October 25, 2014 3:12 pm

Joel, below, may have hit on what it’s all about for the USGS.
I also like your suggestion, below, that cow & calf walruses might well seek shelter on land from killer whales.

Brian H
Reply to  milodonharlani
October 26, 2014 1:30 am

“below” is above in this (and most) blog layouts. Oldest posts are first, higher.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  Gary
October 25, 2014 5:32 pm

“So what if Man effects the environment?”
I don’t think we should go too far with this. Man has the capability to affect the environment to our own detriment. Now don’t get me wrong, but can we not agree that biodiversity (as we really don’t have all the answer yet on any side of this discussion) should not be ruled out as having some benefit? There is just too much out there that we don’t yet know about or understand. As yet unresearched plants that might hold the cure for disease is one example. Could we not agree that we don’t yet know what we don’t know?
I mean, taking this statement to the extreme, we could reduce biodiversity down to one species could we not? Not saying that’s gonna happen, but we get kinda stupid on this here planet some times.
I think I get your overall point, survival of the fittest, but comparing man’s affects (knowingly reducing habitat and biodiversity) would not result in a net positive, and if fact could lead to the demise of our own species in a truly worst case scenario. And there are “values” to having company here with us dontcha think? Sure, nature could toss an asteroid at us at any time, or a solar flare (or a really big, loud boom) could grill us up like a steak, but comparing man’s activity to the the rest of nature is not a reasonable approach.
There is plenty of evidence that humans, supposedly rational beings, are not always that rational. Can’t see an argument there. Nature is nature, and man is man. Unless we’re just not all that important in the scheme of things.

October 25, 2014 12:31 pm
October 25, 2014 12:33 pm

Now is the time to find out why an allegedly reputable tax payer funded agency would print alarmist falsehoods.

October 25, 2014 1:05 pm

And just what the fug are geologists doing reporting on mammals? Shouldn’t that be a zoologist,or a vet,or even more experienced,the locals? To bad these cultists won’t be around for the next Ice Age.

Joel O'Bryan
October 25, 2014 1:20 pm

After a little digging around the USGS web sites to find some answers as to what motivating the mendacity from the USGS regarding the 2014 Walrus Haul-out, I found this nugget of insight.

“Scientists think past walrus population dynamics were affected mainly by harvest. Previous work suggests the population probably increased rapidly in the 1960s due to reduced hunting and reached or exceeded the size that could be supported by food resources in the late 1970s to early 1980s. The decline quantified by the USGS analysis was probably initiated by this overabundance of walruses and exacerbated by a return to the relatively high harvests of the 1980s.
“The decline probably was prompted by these historical reasons, but we can’t rule out other possible contributing factors,” said Taylor. “The environment isn’t static, and food may have become less available to walruses over time, possibly because of sea ice loss.”
“In 2011, due to the combined threats of harvest and sea ice loss, the USFWS determined that listing of the population as threatened under the Endangered Species Act was warranted but was precluded by higher priorities. The agency is under a court order to make a listing decision in 2017.”

So there ya’ have it.
Putting walruses as threatened under the ESA would be used to shut down Arctic oil exploration and drilling in US waters.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 25, 2014 3:43 pm

Sincerely, how does “sea ice loss” lead to food shortages amongst said walruses?

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  inMAGICn
October 25, 2014 3:55 pm

Walruses use their tusks and sensitive whiskers to find and dig clams on the shallow coastal waters. Floating ice gives them protected floating platforms along said coastal margins from which to forage for their meals. Floating ice platforms (thick, patches of sea ice) allows them to avoid polar bears, and a quick escape from Killer whales. Without sea ice, the thinking goes, they have to haul out on land, which is much less ideal for their feeding in near shore waters. That’s my basic understanding of the idea of what Walruses like to eat and hunt from.

Reply to  inMAGICn
October 26, 2014 12:03 pm

You are likely correct, and thanks. But I think they mean that the lack of ice is causing food SHORTAGE ( a term the economist in me dislikes, so maybe I’m cranky about it. You explanation means that there is no such shortage but only that the walruses cannot access their food.
Probably nit-picking here but a lack of ice causing problems in accessing food is a lot different than a lack of ice diminishing the food stock.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 25, 2014 7:21 pm

It’s rabbits and foxes all over again. I’ve modeled that in at least 6 different computer languages. Both populations ebb and flow continuously, depending on external influences and regional stresses and opportunities.

October 25, 2014 2:01 pm

I’ve recently been posting on climate change on my blog, Mole in the Ground, normally devoted to economics and poetry. The last four posts will be of particular interest to global warming skeptics, but all are invited to read — and comment:
Indignant responses are particularly welcome. 🙂

October 25, 2014 2:37 pm

Would walruses haulout due to killer whales offshore? I don’t know whether it was the case with the recent reported haulout.

Abstract – 04 Dec 2012
Killer whales (Orcinus orca) hunting for walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) near Retkyn Spit, Chukotka
Group hunting by killer whales for walruses was observed in August 18, 2008, in the littoral area (3 km from the haulout of walruses, Retkyn Spit, Chukotka). The group of killer whales consisted of seven adults (one adult male did not participate in attacks) and two calves. Based on prey type, these killer whales were mammal-eating. The total duration of their hunt activity was not less than 95 min. The hunt consisted of three phases. The first phase was an attack on the group of walruses and choice of individual prey; the second phase was attacks on the chosen walrus; and the third (final) phase was a decrease in activity of killer whales and leaving group with walrus from sea shore…….
Abstract – 04 Dec 2012
Killer whales (Orcinus orca) hunting for walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) near Retkyn Spit, Chukotka
Group hunting by killer whales for walruses was observed in August 18, 2008, in the littoral area (3 km from the haulout of walruses, Retkyn Spit, Chukotka). The group of killer whales consisted of seven adults…..

Just food for thought. Good night.

Reply to  Jimbo
October 26, 2014 3:19 am

More on killer whales.

Extinct and Vanishing Mammals of the Western Hemisphere With the Marine Species of All the Oceans.
In a recent article on the habits of the Pacific walrus, Collins (1940) tabulates figures for the annual kill by Eskimos on the Alaskan coasts and believes that the number taken ranges from 1,000 to 1,500, chiefly at St. Lawrence Island, King Island, Diomede Island, and Wainwright. With the decline of whaling in these waters, the walrus have been less persecuted and are now in no immediate danger of extinction. The Eskimo hunt them at the islands mentioned chiefly in the spring when great numbers pass northward. Other than man their only enemies are polar bears, which occasionally kill the young, and the killer whales, which are their worst enemy,ofen killing them in great numbers.” Collins relates that a few years ago “a large herd of walrus was driven ashore by killer whales in the vicinity of Panuck, St. Lawrence Island. The frightened animals piled up on top of each other in such great numbers while hauling out on the beach that over 200 of them were smothered and crushed and left dead on the beach. The carcasses were used by the Eskimos” who store the meat and blubber in caves, usually keeping from one to two years’ supply ahead.

October 25, 2014 4:52 pm

One of those hyping this non-event was Gail Collins of the NYTs. I tried probably hopelessly to prode her into shame and repentance, but fear this will result in nothing. However, here is what I emailed her:
Does any sort of real credibility matter to you? If so, you will retract your horribly uninformed rant on walruses a few weeks back and admit you are neither an expert on climate nor able to assess in any informed way the claims of the alarmists you have parroted.
It never seems to matter much in the media world that the facts do no confirm its panic and hysteria. The vast majority of you in the media assume you are educated and aware of what the science is all about, but in fact you are all largely ignorant. For once, please, prove my cynicism wrong. Show you can in fact learn and change your mind.

October 25, 2014 6:45 pm

The hype on walruses is another example of climate “science” hijacking conservation success. The increase in walruses on land is testimony to conservation efforts that have protected the walruses which have always hauled out on land. In 1925 Captain Bernard published in the Journal of Mammalogy advocating for preserves along the Alaskan coast that protected walruses while on land.
IN 1925 he wrote “Thirty or forty years ago in various places along the Alaskan coast walruses were known to haul-out in countless numbers”
Read Berard, J., (1925) Walrus Protection in Alaska. Journal of Mammalogy, Vol. 6, p. 100-10“

Paul in Sweden
October 26, 2014 1:58 am

Walrus beach party, San Fran harbor Sea Lion movement, Snow, No Snow, Rain, No Rain…
It is all too commonplace to blame everything on Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming. Last year CNN newsreader Deb Feyerick speaking about a large asteroid that was to just miss earth as it passed by asked celebrity CAGW Industry representative, Bill Nye “What’s coming our way? Is this the effect of, perhaps, global warming? Or is this just some meteoric occasion?”
The Global Warming Enthusiasts and their media pipelines are all too willing to put forth any and all notions blaming mankind’s non-centrally managed industries for any event that can make a headline. It does not matter if the events happened regularly in the past or if the notions are bag of hammers dumb, if the malleable meat between the ears of CAGW activists can be lured, the events are due to Global Warming.

October 26, 2014 2:43 am

… Climate-induced warming

What the heck is that?
Warming induced by climate? Is is autoinduced or what?

Joe P.
October 26, 2014 7:45 pm

It was outrageous that “reporters” presented the walruses normal gathering on land as caused by lack of sea ice to hang out on due to global warming. To add two facts not mentioned to the video:
1.) on the late September date of the walrus gathering, there is normally no sea ice in the Bering Strait so how could a lack of ice to gather on force them to land,
2.) abet overall total sea ice extent and area in Arctic had recovered last summer with annual melt less than years prior, the majority of any ice anomaly since 1979 is on other side of the Arctic where the Atlantic current run and ice had been lower (around Barents Sea, East of Greenland, Svalbard Island), not the Bering Straight.
Either these newspaper reporters are idiots, do not do homework, or just want a catchy unsubstantiated byline, or they are just propagandists for global warming for politics. They should be fired for reporting false facts.
Stuff like this will stay up for public misinformation.
Worse, it is propaganda by US Gov. cited as source, tax money spent on unsubstantiated science and propaganda sort of like NASA GISS and temperature tampering.
US Geological Survey
Walruses are hauling out on land instead of ice because of climate-induced warming.
“The walruses are hauling out on land in a spectacle that has become all too common in six of the last eight years as a consequence of climate-induced warming.” – again, no ice at that time of year in Bering is normal, and there is no change in ice or anomaly on that side of Arctic. You do not have to be a scientist, biologist or climate expert to understand the normal walrus herding on land is not because of non-existent ice loss caused a few tenths of a degree change in world temps. Sort of like global warming causes global cooling or all time record high sea ice in Antarctic because of global warming is killing penguins, absolutely ridiculous.

Steve in Seattle
October 27, 2014 12:46 am

Jim S – I’ve been searching for a link to the Bernard article, I can find ref to it in several other studies, yet so far, no like to the article in the JOM vol you mention. Did you have a link ?

Steve in Seattle
October 27, 2014 12:47 am

Sorry, should be no link

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