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Help Minimize the Disturbance of Walruses along the Chukchi Sea Coast


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is requesting your support and cooperation in minimizing disturbances to walrus herds along the Chukchi Sea coast.   Walruses usually "haul out" onto sea-ice-to rest between feeding trips. When sea-ice is not available, walruses must come to shore to rest. 

In late summer, large herds of walruses may be found hauled out on isolated beaches and barrier islands along the Chukchi Sea coast. Walruses are sensitive to the sight, sound, and odor of humans and machines, and may stampede back into the water when disturbed. Large-scale mortality events have occasionally resulted from herd stampedes, with calves being particularly vulnerable to trampling injuries. Frequent disturbances may also impact animal health and condition if walruses are unable to obtain sufficient rest between feeding excursions.  

The Service requests that pilots keep aircrafts at least 1,000 feet above, and well to one side of, herds of resting walruses.  Such activities as buzzing, circling, landing, taking off, and taxiing near walrus groups are likely to cause disturbances. When weather conditions allow, pilots should fly well inland from walrus groups to avoid flushing animals into the water.

The Service recommends that marine vessels maintain a ½ mile buffer from shore when transiting past a walrus haulout. Vessels should also avoid excessive speed or sudden changes in speed or direction near walrus

FOR LAND BASED-VIEWING: The Service asks that people approach walruses hauled out on land cautiously.  Viewing the animals should be done is a manner that allows the animals to remain unaware of human presence.  The use of binoculars can help to ensure a good view without causing disruptions to animals.  

Please remember that harassment of walruses or other marine mammals violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act and, if the disturbance involves an aircraft, the Federal Airborne Hunting Act.

For more information about walrus conservation and management programs in Alaska visit
or call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marine Mammals Management office at (800) 362-5148.    

- FWS -  

For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov
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