The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Tommy Wells
Seward Phoenix LOG 

Young walrus receiving care from ASLC staff


Tommy Wells

Samara Asrat, one of the Alaska SeaLife Center's summer Fellows, allows a rescued baby walrus to cuddle with her on Monday afternoon. The 120-pound walrus, which is estimated to be about two weeks old, was rescued from a gold mining barge near Nome on Friday and sent to the ASLC for care. The walrus is currently in the SeaLife Center's I.Sea.U facility but can be seen by the public.

The Alaska SeaLife Center got a new visitor this weekend. And it is one that is sure to excite the masses who make their way through the facility.

On Saturday, the ASLC received a baby walrus that had been stranded in the Bering Sea after climbing aboard a gold mining barge. SeaLife Center officials estimate the walrus to be about 2 weeks old.

According to the Alaska SeaLife Center, a young male walrus was discovered last Wednesday by the crew of the AU Grabber, a mining dredge that was working in open water off the coast of Nome. After finding that the walrus did not leave the vessel overnight and that a mother walrus was not in the area, the crew contacted the Alaska SeaLife Center's stranded marine animal hotline. The ASLC staff notified the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has authority over walruses, and the Eskimo Walrus Commission. Once authorities had signed off on removing the animal from the wild, a University of Alaska Fairbanks professor in Nome took the walrus into his possession. After being secured in a fish tote, the walrus was placed on a Northern Air Cargo flight from Nome to Anchorage, where a SeaLife Center team checked him out.

Following the physical, the 120-pound infant was placed in a pickup and transported to the ASLC in Seward.

Upon arriving, the walrus was placed in the I.Sea.U unit, a large quarantine space which is viewable from the second floor of the center.

Officials noted the walrus - which has not been given an official name but was nicknamed "Nugget" by the crew of the AU Grabber - was dehydrated and had a few sores when it arrived in Seward. As part of its recovery plan, ASLC veterinarians and animal husASLC veterinarians and animal husbandry professionals have been feeding him an electrolyte-rich formula via a feeding tube several time a day.

Despite his condition, the walrus has taken to the staff and volunteers at the SeaLife Center. He can often be seen sleeping cuddled up next to a volunteer or SeaLife Center staff member. Once healthy, the walrus will not be released back into the wild. Since it has been separated from its mother, it would not be able to learn to feed itself.

With that in mind, he will be sent to a zoo or an aquarium.

According to a release from the ASLC, the center rescued a pair of stranded walruses in 2012. Those animals were sent to Indianapolis Zoo and the New York Aquarium, respectively.

Individuals who finds a stranded marine mammal or seabird can call the SeaLife Center's hotline – 888-774-SEAL or 774-7235 - before touching or moving the animal.


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