Alaska News

Alaska SeaLife Center treats orphaned walrus calf

A male Pacific walrus calf is under care at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward after it was stranded near Barrow last weekend.

The Seward center said in a written statement that the calf is estimated to be 4- to 6-weeks old.

Officials reported a large group of walruses floated on sea ice past Barrow at North Salt Lagoon on July 17, and they believe this calf became separated from them. Barrow fishermen saw the calf in the lagoon July 21 and when wildlife biologists with the North Slope Borough arrived the next day, the calf was already getting care from a veterinarian, the SeaLife Center said.

Northern Air Cargo flew the 200-pound calf from Barrow to Anchorage, where biologists loaded it into a special truck and drove the 125 miles to Seward.

Despite some concerns about the calf's health, staff members at the Alaska SeaLife Center say the calf appears to be in good health. It was reportedly suckling from a bottle, consuming about 1,400 calories every three hours, around the clock. The walrus calf was "vocalizing" when left by itself, said Tim Lebling, the center's stranded animal coordinator, in the statement.

"Walrus are incredibly tactile, social animals," Lebling said. "Walrus calves typically spend about two years with their mothers, so we have to step in to provide that substitute care and companionship."

It's the first walrus calf at the center since 2007. Four calves were cared for at the center between 2003-2007.

Photos: Orphaned walrus calf

Staff and wire reports