Alaska SeaLife Center Laments the Death of a Young Walrus Calf
On the morning of August 11th, the Alaska SeaLife Center announced the death of a young Pacific walrus calf that had been rescued a few days prior. He had been found walking by himself on the North Slope, four miles inland from the Beaufort Sea. With the approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the ASLC coordinated with Alaska Clean Seas and ConocoPhillips Alaska to provide shelter and arrange travel to Seward. After news of his rescue began to spread online, the month-old calf quickly became a social media sensation. This was in part due to the fact that the rescue of such a calf was a rather unique event in the history of ASLC. It marked the first walrus admission in four years and only the tenth in the center’s 25-year history.
However, another significant aspect of the rescue’s uniqueness revolved around the measures taken to care for the calf. Walruses are known for their social nature, receiving intensive care from their mothers during infancy. To simulate interaction with his mother, the staff provided him with the option to lean against a warm body. The Communications team at ASLC confirmed to Sol de Medianoche that he consistently took advantage of this opportunity. Images of these interactions, where the walrus appeared to be “cuddling” with staff members, quickly went viral.
This practice was intended to aid in his recovery and help him acclimate to human care. This is because, despite efforts to replicate his natural habitat, the calf was not a candidate for release back into the wild. While contact with his mother could be simulated, the disparity between the rehabilitation and natural environments makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the team to teach walrus calves how to survive post-release, stated ALSC’s Communications team.
However, the calf also grappled with significant health concerns. Initial examinations revealed worries about malnutrition, dehydration, and a cloudy eye, with blood work suggesting both dehydration and a possible infection. In a social media post on August 11th, ASLC mentioned that, despite around-the-clock critical care treatment and the efforts of dedicated staff members, his gastrointestinal problems worsened. In the 24 hours before his death, the calf also suffered from hypoglycemia. The center announced that a necropsy would be conducted in the coming days to further understand the cause of death.
It had been anticipated that visitors to the center would eventually have the opportunity to meet the calf. If his condition had improved, he was meant to be taken to a limited public viewing area, as stated by the center. However, while we won’t have the chance to meet him, we will have the opportunity to hear his story. We will remember the unwavering and meticulous care provided by the staff at ASLC, as well as the community partners who were crucial to his transportation and rescue. Hopefully, this kindness and dedication will serve as a reminder of our duty to protect and preserve the flora and fauna of our beautiful state.