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Walrus image
Walrus

Walrus

(Mammal)

Walrus Baby
Walrus Baby

Walrus Habits

The walrus spends its days in open water near the shore or resting on ice floes. When there are no floes, it hauls out (pulls itself out of the sea) onto rocky shores, often alongside many other walruses. In limited space, walruses even lie on top of each other. Flat flippers, instead of feet enable the walrus to swim. The forelimbs serve as rudders. Out of the water the walrus can walk almost upright on all fours by turning its back flippers forward. The bumpy bottoms of the flippers help the walrus grip the ice. When ice spreads and thickens into pack ice in the winter, walruses usually head south. They can not break through the thick ice to make air holes to breathe through from underneath. Walruses' blubber (fat) and thick skin keep them warm in the freezing temperatures of the Arctic. Blubber may be as much as 6 inches thick.
Eskimos have hunted the walrus for hundreds of years. They use almost every part of the animal. Because they traditionally hunted using strong fishing lines, they did not catch enough walrus to reduce its population. Eskimos are still allowed to hunt the walrus, but now they use high powered rifles. They can kill many more walruses than they did with fishing lines. In the last 300 years commercial hunters caught so many walruses that the species has become almost extinct. There are now about 250,000 walruses in the Bering sea, but extinction is still a possibility because of their slow breeding rate and the fragile environment that they live in. Even though commercial hunting is no longer allowed, the walrus is still endangered.

Walrus Communication

Walruses have vocal cords and they produce sounds both above and below water. They are among the most vocal of the pinnipeds. They produce growls, taps, knocks, grunts, barks, soft whistles, rasps, and clicks.
Male walruses produce bell-like sounds below water. These sounds are not produced by the vocal cords but originate from air sacs, which extend from the pharynx. Adults engaged in dominance conflicts may snort, cough, or roar. Calves bellow if disturbed.

Walrus Breeding

Large herds of walruses gather during the breeding season. The bulls fight for cows, and the largest bulls with the longest tusks usually win. Each winner will mate with several females. Birth occurs about 15 months after mating often from April to June, as the herds are heading back north after the winter. The female hauls out onto an ice floe to give birth to a single calf measuring about 50 inches.
At first the calf travels by hanging onto the mother's neck. After 2 weeks, it is able to swim. The young walrus nurses on its mother's rich milk for at least 18 months. At 6 months it begins to eat solid food, and after 12 months it has usually tripled in weight. Its tusks show at this age , but they are only about 1 inch long. At 24 months the calf leaves its mother and joins a herd of other young walruses. Because of the length of time that she cares for her calf, a female can not breed more than once every 2 years.

Walrus Food & Feeding

The walrus gathers its main food from the seabed, including clams, cockles, mussels, shrimp, worms, sea cucumbers, and even octopuses, as well as some fish. Sometimes a large bull will eat a seal that it has attacked with his tusks. Although it can dive as deep as 250 feet for up to 10 minutes, the walrus usually searches for food in much shallower water. The water that walrus feeds in are often murky, so it probably uses the sensitive bristles of its mustache to locate food. It may also uncover mollusks from soft mud by squirting water from its mouth.

Walrus Key Facts

        Size 
              Height: Up to 5 feet. Length: Bulls, 10-12 feet
              Weight: 2,000-3,500 pounds
       Breeding
             Sexual maturity: Females, usually 6-7 years; males, 15 years
             Mating: January-March
             Gestation: 15 months, including 3 months delayed implantation
             Number of young: 1
       Lifestyle 
            Habit: Gregarious, living mainly in herds
            Diet: Mainly bivalve mollusks, but also other invertebrate marine animals, fish and sometimes seals
            Lifespan: Up to 40 years

 

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Odobeniade, the walrus's family name, comes from an ancient Greek word that means "One who walks with his teeth".
  • The walrus turns red when it sunbathes. The heat causes its arteries to enlarge, and the blood rushes to the skin.
  • When the walrus bellows, the noise sometimes resembles the ringing of distant church bells.
  • The skin from a bull's neck can be 3 inches thick. It is valued for polishing and buffing metal objects.
  • The longest walrus tusk ever recorded was 37 inches long and 11 inches in diameter.

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