The issue of global warming took on added significance in the eyes of many skeptics when reports came out that polar bears were drowning in the Arctic because ice sheets were getting too thin. Now, new news from the Arctic may up the ante on “animal emotion” meter.
Coast Guard icebreakers going through Arctic waters have found more “orphaned” walruses on ice floes than they ever seen before, report Science Daily. And the thinking is that walrus mothers have to abandon their pups on thinner ice as they follow the thicker ice that’s retreating north.
One recent Coast Guard unit reported seeing nine abandoned walrus pups in one trip. Years ago, it was a sight that was never seen.
Being abandoned is a almost always fatal for a walrus pup. The moms dive into the water to find food – bottom-dwelling aquatic animals – for the pups. But if the ice isn’t thick and strong enough to support the adults, they little ones go hungry. Adult walruses can dive as deep as 600 feet to find food.
“We were on a station for 24 hours, and the calves would be swimming around us crying. We couldn’t rescue them,” said Carin Ashjian, a biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
That same research crew found a large pool of warmer ocean water surrounding the area with all the abandoned walrus pups. That water has a temperature of 44-degrees, which is about six degrees warmer than water temperatures taken at the same spot at the same time of year two years earlier.