The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of anywhere else on Earth.

Today the biggest threat facing walruses is the loss of stable sea ice due to climate change. Walruses feed on the ocean floor in the relatively shallow waters of the continental shelf, where the sea ice itself sustains a rich food web. Females will leave their young on the sea ice while they forage, then haul out to nurse their calves.

The accelerating retreat of sea ice puts the newborns’ safe haven farther away from the mothers’ food—meaning longer, more exhausting swims for the mothers, and more time alone for the calves.

With warming conditions come more vessels making the journey into remote ecosystems that were once inaccessible. With more vessels in Arctic waters, the threat of an oil spill impacting wildlife seems all but inevitable and more ships increase noise pollution, ship strikes, pollution from ballast water and entanglement in marine debris.

Defenders' Impact

While climate change will continue to make life harder for walruses in the Arctic, Defenders is working to protect habitat, bolster spill response, mitigate climate change and defend the Marine Mammal Protection Act. We are fighting for the protection of Arctic Ocean and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska habitat.

We launched the Bering Strait Response Teaching Tool to draw on the latest technology and be a teaching aid and interactive pathway to foster dialogue and action, and ultimately better preparedness for oil spills in the region. We co-hosted the Pacific Walrus Spill Response Experts Workshop that brought walrus experts together to solicit advice and information from invited experts in marine mammal oil spill response.

Threats

Climate change and the loss of sea ice, human disturbance due to oil and gas development, increased shipping and oil spills.

Protection Status
Endangered Species Act
IUCN Red List
CITES
 Not Listed
 Appendix III

Identified as a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife determined in October 2017 that the Pacific walrus did not warrant listing.

The walrus is listed as data deficient on the IUCN red list.

What You Can Do

Reduce your greenhouse gas emissions to help moderate climate impacts. Vote to elect politicians who aim to curb our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Stay engaged by checking Defenders’ website and through other means to learn about when you can comment and speak out in support of protecting walrus and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Facts
Latin Name
Odobenus rosmarus divergens
Size
7-11 feet and up to 3,700 pounds (males are larger than females)
Lifespan
Up to 40 years
Range/Habitat

The Pacific walrus range is expanding and is found in the Bering Sea, as far south as the Bristol Bay area, and the Chukchi, Beaufort, East Siberian and Laptev Seas.

Population

More than 200,000.

Behavior

Walruses are very social animals and congregate in large numbers. They haul out in herds and males and females form separate herds during the non-breeding season. They establish dominance through threat displays involving tusks, bodies and aggression.

Reproduction

Walrus population growth rates tend to be slow, with mature females producing a calf on average every 3 years.
Mating Season: December to March
Gestation: 15-16 months
Number of Offspring: 1 calf, though twins have been recorded
 

Diet

Walrus staples include clams, mussels and other benthic (bottom dwelling) organisms that they locate using their whiskers. They are also known to eat carcasses of young seals when food is scarce.

Adopt a walrus

Your adoption supports our work to protect the walrus’ habitat by fighting climate change and advocating for a ban on drilling in the Arctic region.

Adopt now

Read More About the Pacific Walrus

Wildlife and Wild Places