Photos: 35,000 Walruses Gather on Alaska Beach Because They Can't Find Sea Ice

Corey Accardo/NOAA

While personnel from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were flying over the Alaskan coast for the agency's annual survey of arctic marine mammals, they spotted something they weren't expecting. On a patch of beach in northwest Alaska, around 35,000 walruses were basking in the sun. They weren't supposed to be there—walruses typically rest on sea ice in between diving for prey. But as summer sea ice has receded in recent years as the climate warms, the Pacific walruses couldn't find any.

The photograph of the walrus gathering, taken Saturday by NOAA researchers, is the latest in a series of similar phenomena from wildlife affected by loss of summer sea ice. The ice's annual low point this year was the sixth smallest since researchers began monitoring it by satellite in 1979, the Associated Press reported.

Corey Accardo/NOAA

"It's another remarkable sign of the dramatic environmental conditions changing as the result of sea ice loss," Margaret Williams, managing director of the World Wildlife Fund's Arctic program, told the Associated Press.

The group said walruses have also been spotted converging in large groups on the Russian side of the Chukchi Sea.

"The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic, and that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change," Williams said.

Corey Accardo/NOAA
Corey Accardo/NOAA
Stan Churches/NOAA