Coast News

Partying Pinnipeds: Walrus Cam is Back!

On a tiny island in north Bristol Bay, a large population of walruses from as far away from Russia, gather as they have for thousands of years. The main difference is this year people from all over the world will be watching the 2-ton sea mammals sort through their summer routines courtesy of a live camera installation from philanthropic media organization explore.org and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. People can watch from a variety of camera angles hosted on explore.org/walrus.

With mothers and calves out of sight for the summer, following the winter mating season, male walruses congregate on Round Island in the thousands. The 160-meter-wide island was scheduled to be closed to visitors this year due to budget constraints, but a grant from explore.org founder Charles Annenberg Weingarten provided enough resources to keep the habitat open for visitors through mid-August as in previous years.

“The walrus is a mythical giant of the seas,” said Weingarten. “To most, the creature is a caricature that will only be seen at a zoo or in a depiction from mass media. We are honored to bring people up close to observe the walrus in their natural habitat and we are thankful for the opportunity to partner with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to preserve this wonderful the pearl of our planet.”

Explore.org and ADF&G’s Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary staff established four cameras along the rocky shore of the island’s most popular haul outs. Two ADF&G representatives will contribute blogs and provide context to viewers watching remotely via live chats and within the comments section of the cam pages.

“These cams help us extend our mission of conservation and education,” said Maria Gladziszewski, Acting Deputy Director of ADF&G’s Division of Wildlife Conservation. “We are thrilled to share our work with a larger community of people and grateful to explore.org for the opportunity.”

Viewers will be able to observe the primary haul out location for the walruses at Round Island on the Main Beach cam. Along the cliffs you can see nesting seabirds, and out at sea are approaching walrus and other marine mammals such as whales, sea lions and seals. On the First Beach Cam walruses can often be seen with their heads submerged, chiming at the base of the central rock. Pigeon guillemots, and other seabirds are common visitors to this rock and cove, and up on the cliff faces are nesting pelagic cormorants and puffins.

The new cams are part of explore.org’s Pearls of the Planet initiative, a portfolio of live video feeds from around the world to help people everywhere deepen their connection to nature and reflect on their role in it.

“When people are inspired to fall in love with the world again, they are more likely to be better stewards of the planet,” said Charlie Annenberg, founder of explore.org and VP of the Annenberg Foundation, which is underwriting the live cams and a team of cam operators and bloggers to help educate people on these and other endangered species.

More on the Walruses: The Pacific walrus is a large pinniped (i.e., the group that includes seals, sea lions and fur seals) that lives in the Bering and Chukchi seas where they haul out on sea ice and along the mainland coast and islands of Russia and Alaska. Walruses are strong bodied and have a very thick, tough hide that can be an inch thick. The most distinctive feature of walruses, both male and female, is their two ivory tusks, which are long upper canine teeth that grow throughout their life. Walruses also have hundreds of short, strong, highly sensitive whiskers that they use to search the seafloor for their food. Adult males, or bulls, are up 12 feet long and may weigh up to 2 tons; although females are smaller they can weigh more than 1 ton. Bulls are identified by their larger size, broad muzzle, heavier tusks, and many large bumps on their neck and shoulders called “bosses.”

To view the camera, click here.

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