For Immediate Release
Administration Fails to Shield Arctic Wildlife From the Devastating Impacts of Climate Change
Pacific walrus denied endangered species status
WASHINGTON - The following is a statement by Bob Irvin, senior vice president of conservation programs for Defenders of Wildlife:
“By melting Arctic sea ice on which Pacific walrus and other wildlife depend, climate change is stacking the deck against their ability to survive. As Pacific walrus habitat shrinks, it becomes harder to find food and the animals are forced to crowd together in smaller areas, increasing the risk of deadly stampedes. With all of these threats, the life of a Pacific walrus is pretty tough. Today’s decision just made it tougher, failing to provide the help Pacific walrus will need to survive the impacts of global climate change.”
• Pacific walruses prefer to spend the majority of the year resting on sea ice, but typically gather on shore in the fall months. Scientists are finding that these animals are now gathering in unusually large numbers at fewer haulout locations, and are arriving much earlier than in previous years. This trend is resulting in increased incidences of often deadly stampedes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported in 2009 that 131 walruses, mostly calves and yearlings, were trampled to death in Alaska by other walruses.
• Increasing stampedes coupled with the continued loss of Arctic sea ice means Pacific walruses are facing increased nutritional and physical stress since they have to use more energy to locate and obtain food.
• Defenders is co-sponsoring a Pacific walrus remote camera monitoring project at five walrus haulout locations. The goal of the project is to record haulout disturbances and what the causes are and how long they last.
Defenders of Wildlife is a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.