Rural Alaska

Rare 3-tusked walrus fills dinner tables in Barrow

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.

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