Walrus calf dies after being rescued from North Slope miles from the ocean

A Pacific walrus calf rescued last week after being found miles from the ocean on Alaska’s North Slope has died, the nonprofit caring for it said Friday.

The 1-month-old calf was found about 4 miles inland from the Beaufort Sea by North Slope oil field workers on July 31. It was flown a day later to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, where it was admitted to the center’s Wildlife Response Program.

[How did a walrus get four miles from shore, to the middle of an Alaska oil field?]

Despite efforts to nurse the young walrus back to health, it died Friday morning after “his condition took a turn for the worse,” the center said in a statement. The calf had been struggling with several health issues — including dehydration — when it was admitted, the center said, and was having trouble absorbing nutrients.

The calf was experiencing hypoglycemia and gastrointestinal problems in the 24 hours leading up to its death, according to Carrie Goertz, director of animal health for the center.

A necropsy will be conducted to help better understand what caused the calf’s death, the center said.

Walrus calves normally depend on their mothers for their first two years of life, but this male calf had been found alone at just 1 month old with no adult walruses seen nearby. To mimic the care a calf would get from its mother, SeaLife Center staff provided round-the-clock “cuddling” while trying to nurse the walrus back to health.

“While often rewarding, wildlife rescue is inherently unpredictable and comes with it the possibility of great loss,” the center said Friday. “... We appreciate your understanding as the Center and its staff mourn, and we thank you for the outpouring of support that has come our way since this patient’s admission.”