Field Guide - Pacific Walrus

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B Hickey, USGS
Adult Pacific walrus
L. Polasek ASLC and UAF
Hauled out Pacific walrus

Pacific Walrus

Odobenus rosmarus

Number of Confirmed Sightings: 5

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Odobenidae
Genus: Odobenus
Species: rosmarus

Description: The Pacific walrus can be found off the coasts of the Bering and Chuckchi Seas hauled out on sea ice, the shore, or diving for food nearby. This animal is the largest of the pinnipeds, and rotates its hind flippers or uses its tusks to help drag its body across land and ice. They are often found in large groups and have strong social bonds with one another.

Population status: Populations have varied over time and current population size is hard to estimate. Although they are not on the endangered species list, their sea ice habitat and the health of their food supply is threatened by climate change, making them a species of concern.

General characteristics: Brown color with rosy patches (esp. in older animals losing their fur), blubbery and wrinkled appearance, short and dense whiskers on face, two long tusks, and two front and two hind flippers.

Female defining traits: Measures 5–10 feet, weighs 1 ton, and tusks not as thick as males.

Male defining traits: Measures 7–12 feet, weighs 2 tons, broad muzzle, thick tusks, large bumps on neck and shoulders, and older males have many scars on chest from fighting.

Juvenile defining traits: Either short or no tusks, smaller than adults, and stays near mother for 2 or more years.

Diet in the wild: Clams, snails, crabs, shrimp, worms, and sea cucumbers.

Reproductive cycle: Females reach sexual maturity at 6–7 years, males 8–10 years. One calf is born approximately every 2 years in late April-May after a gestation period of 15–16 months.

Predators in the wild: Killer whales and polar bears.

Similar species: Distinct.