The drastic increase in resting walrus numbers is a grave concern, as it is probable that climate change is responsible. A decrease in the amount of floating ice in the Chukchi Sea has forced more walruses to find rest on dry land. "The massive concentration of walruses onshore - when they should be scattered broadly in ice-covered waters - is just one example of the impacts of climate change on the distribution of marine species in the Arctic," said Margaret Williams, the director of the World Wildlife Fund's Arctic program, in a statement to the Associated Press. "The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic, and that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change."
Sea ice in the Chukchi Sea has been in decline for decades - the US Geological Survey says that "in 6 of the last 9 years, the Chukchi Sea shelf was ice-free-with periods of no ice cover extending from 1 week to as much as 2.5 months. In contrast, there was always some ice over the Chukchi Sea shelf in all of the previous 20 years."
(Corey Accardo, AP/NOAA)