Coast Guard helps rescue 2 walrus calves in Alaska

July 31, 2012 

Orphaned Walrus Calves

In this photo taken Monday July 30, 2012, an Alaska SeaLife Center employee prepares a walrus calf for transport aboard a U.S. Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane in Barrow, Alaska. The Coast Guard crew assisted Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Alaska SeaLife Center personnel transporting three malnourished walrus calves to Anchorage for care.

AP PHOTO/US COAST GUARD, JOE KLINKER — AP

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Three Pacific walruses separated from their mothers are under care at an Alaska aquarium.

The three males are believed to be from the same group of walruses that floated on ice past Barrow, the nation's northernmost city on Alaska's northern coast, on July 17.

The first abandoned calf was found stranded in a Barrow lagoon late last week. It was flown on a commercial flight to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.

The other two calves were found Monday near Barrow, malnourished and in need of veterinary care.

No commercial flights were available, so the Coast Guard flew the walruses to Anchorage in large kennels in a transport plane.

"With our new presence in the Arctic, we can provide our help and support in a variety of ways," Capt. Melissa Rivera, the commanding officer of Air Station Kodiak, said in a written statement.

From Anchorage, the walruses were transported 125 miles south to Seward, where health assessments were taken.

The first walrus rescued learned how to suckle from a bottle while it was still in Barrow, Alaska SeaLife Center President Tara Riemer Jones said. It's grown from 258 pounds since it arrived to 269 on Monday.

But the newest walruses are smaller; one weighs 185 pounds, and the other 161 pounds.

"We're suspecting these two were away from their mothers for longer," Riemer Jones said.

They haven't learned yet how to suckle from a bottle, so "these guys are going to take a little more work," she said.

The two new arrivals each had their own assigned caretaker to watch over them the first night. Staffers from other zoos and aquariums who've worked with walruses have offered to come to Alaska to help with their care.

The calves are the first walrus visitors at the Alaska SeaLife Center since 2007. Earlier this year, the center was involved with a high-profile and expensive rescue of an abandoned beluga whale calf. Despite round-the-clock care, the beluga died.

That, along with the newest arrivals, continue to strain the nonprofit center's stranding budget.

The program received $180,000 from Shell Oil Co. and $100,000 from ConocoPhillips earlier in the year, before the beluga arrived. Riemer Jones said BP then donated $50,000 to the program.

The center is planning a 5K Wildlife Rescue Run on Saturday, encouraging virtual runners to sign up online to raise funds for the stranding program.

Registration is $25 per person for the run, which isn't expected to generate a huge amount of cash for the stranding program.

"It's also important for us to get a lot of people that are really supporting the program with their hearts, as well as with their dollars," she said.

Anchorage Daily News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service