Walrus Conservation Status
The walrus lives in very cold regions, and that has limited their risk factors from natural predators. The Polar Bears doesn’t usually hunt for them, but they have been known to consume young calves. They will also take the opportunity to consume the remains of any deceased walruses that they happen to come across.
The Killer Whale does prey on the walrus. They will look for adults that are injured as they are going to be easier to catch. They will also hunt for young calves that have ventured too far from the protection of their mother.
Humans can be a huge threat to the survival of the walrus. In many locations around the United States, Canada, Great Brittan, Norway, Russia, and Greenland they have been hunted for their meat and their skin. The meat has very high nutritional value. The meat from the flippers is considered to be a delicacy. The ivory trade also resulted in large numbers of them being wiped out.
The ivory was once sold for a high price to make various forms of medicines and other items. The ivory was also used to create a variety of tools. Oil extracted from the blubber was used for lighting and for heating.
In areas of the Arctic, there are those people that rely on the meat and other materials from the walrus for their own survival. They tend to only kill what they must have in order to live. In these cultures, the walrus is well respected. It is part of their traditions and their cultures. Their own survival at times is hard due to decreasing numbers of the walrus. Today, commercial harvesting of the walrus is outlawed. Individuals that are part of the Inuit, Yupik, and Chukchi cultures do continue to kill small numbers, usually at the end of the summer.
One of biggest problem areas is around Alaska. Approximately 42% of them that are killed by bullets will never be recovered by the hunters either. This means that they have dropped the population but didn’t gain anything from those efforts. Several hundred of walrus in the Alaska area are killed with this result annually.
Studies show that since the 1800’s,the population of the walrus has been very low and at risk, but it has also rebounded three different times. Many experts feel that a lack of communication among countries has allowed problems to occur that threaten the future for the walrus. There are now significant efforts in place to help protect them.
However, hunting still takes place at sea and it is hard to monitor all of the possible locations where it can occur. Poaching has been identified as a concern in all regions where the walrus lives. Yet there isn’t enough funding for the resources to successfully reduce such problems.
The walrus has been found to be quite vulnerable to a variety of types of viruses and infections. They attack the skin as well as the internal organs. They are also vulnerable to both external and internal parasites. Since they do congregate in large numbers, such problems can quickly spread and wipe out large numbers of them in a short period of time. Stress from human noise in some areas where the walrus was once isolated can cause problems for them. It can interrupt mating and feeding. Some of the haul out areas that have been disturbed by humans have been completely abandoned by the large groups of walrus.
Some of the deaths are attributed to the fierce competition among the males. They will fight with each other for the right to mate. If one male doesn’t back down, then the fight can become life threatening. Due to the close quarters on land, some young will die due to accidentally being crushed by much larger adults. Both adults and young can get injured or killed due to fishing boats or fishing nets. Pollution problems can also put the walrus at risk.
Changes to the environment on a global scale have also created problems for the walrus. The amount of ice pack in their environment has dropped and that has made it harder for them to find places for resting or for giving birth. The thinning of the ice pack around the Bering Sea has made it difficult for the walrus to feed from prime regions around this area. The stress can result in the females reproducing slower and the young calves not getting the nutrition they need to survive.
At this point in time, the walrus is listed as near threatened by the IUCN. This means that they aren’t current at risk of being endangered. However, the fact that their numbers are dropping has results in some conservation efforts to help them. Some of these programs have significantly helped the Pacific Walrus population to grow.