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Rare 3-tusked walrus fills dinner tables in Barrow

Qulliuq Pebley harvested this rare male walrus with three tusks recently in Barrow. Alaska biologists say fewer than 1 in 1,000 walruses have an extra tusk or similar abnormal dental growth. Pebley, a young whaling captain, shared his catch with neighbors and friends and family across the state, reaching as far as Anaktuvuk Pass, Anchorage, Noatak and Point Hope. Tulugiagruaq is Iñupiaq word for a walrus with three tusks, writes Mary Sage of Barrow.
Mary Anniagruk Sage photos
Hunter Qulliuq Pebley of Barrow harvested a rare male walrus with three tusks this month. He is pictured with his aunt Eva Kinneeveauk of Point Hope. The young whaling captain shared his catch with many people across the state, reaching as far as Anaktuvuk Pass, Anchorage, Noatak and Point Hope. Tulugiagruaq is an Iñupiaq word for a walrus with three tusks.
Photo by Mary Anniagruk Sage
Kyle Hopkins

The Inupiat have a name for walrus with extra tusks, says Mary Sage of Barrow, who shared pics from the spoils of a recent hunt: Tulugiagruaq.

Wildlife biologists have a name for the toothy mammals too: “Supernumeraries.” While the phenomenon has been documented by scientists in Alaska for decades -- we know you Internet, you were thinking Fukushima -- experts here say they know little about why a small number of the big sea mammals have one or two extra canine teeth.

A third tusk appears in fewer than one in 1,000 walruses, the late University of Alaska researcher Francis “Bud” Fay wrote in 1982. The condition also appears in humans and other animals such as seals and sea lions

Sage said Barrow whaling captain Qulliuq Pebley recently harvested this walrus on the North Slope and shared the meat with neighbors, friends and family in Anaktuvuk Pass, Noatak, Anchorage and elsewhere. He is seen here with his aunt, Eva Kinneeveauk of Point Hope.

Russians and Alaskans harvest an average of 5,000 Pacific Walrus each year, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Jonathan Snyder. In 20 years spent researching the animals at St. Lawrence Island, Snyder said he has seen only about 10 with extra tusks.

“I do know that there was one recently reported in Nome that had four,” he said.

Contact Kyle Hopkins at khopkins@adn.com.