Thursday, September 27, 2007

Alaska rehab facility takes in walrus


In this photo released by the Alaska SeaLife Center shows young walrus at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska


SEWARD, Alaska -- A young walrus is exploring new surroundings at the Alaska SeaLife Center after first appearing without its mother about a month ago near the Red Dog Mine port facility south of Kivalina.
The walrus, born last year and weighing over 400 pounds, seemed exhausted and lethargic, hauling out on the backs of zinc ships as they were loaded. It eluded several attempts to capture it, until last Thursday.
The walrus, named "Chukchi," was flown to Kotzebue and Anchorage on chartered cargo planes, and then on to Seward where it is getting acclimated in the center's rehabilitation facility.
Visitors to the center can observe Chukchi on a monitor near the touch pool, via a video camera linked to its quarantined area.
When the walrus was first spotted near the Red Dog Mine port facility, there was no sign of its mother. Walrus can remain dependent on their mothers for more than two years. Workers decided to call the SeaLife Center's stranding response staff for assistance.
"U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists tell us that harvested animals of this age normally have only their mother's milk for stomach contents," said Tim Lebling, stranding coordinator at the Alaska SeaLife Center.
After taking note of the walrus's size and budding tusks, Lebling determined it was born last year. While the animal did not need to be rescued, center staff decided the young walrus needed to be captured and nursed back to optimum health.
Walrus calves are born mostly in late April or early May during the spring migration, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Web site. At birth, they can weigh 100 to 160 pounds. Calves are dependent upon their mothers for at least 18 months and occasionally for as long as 2 1/2 years.

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