This walrus was found by a local fisherman and reported by LEO Network to the US Fish and Wildlife Walrus Hotline. The carcass is thought to be too old for necropsy or sample collection.
Observation by Michelle Snowball:
A dead Walrus washed up on shore. Across Saint Michael Bay by five-mile point. Red color lumps or lesions on its outer skin. Thin looking skin on the outside. It was found by local fishermen.
Jonathan Snyder and Joel Garlich Miller with the US Fish and Wildlife service write:
The carcass appears to be an approximately 10+ year old male walrus. It appears to have been floating at sea for some time prior to washing up on shore. The large red patch and sloughing skin appear to be the result of natural decomposition. The carcass is likely too old for meaningful necropsy or sample collection. This could be a natural mortality, although sometimes walrus are struck and lost during a hunt. In either case the carcass sinks, then bloats and floats to the surface where it’s at the mercy of the winds and currents until they wash up on shore. Ivory or other hard parts from beach cast walrus may be legally salvaged with land owner permission. If salvaged by an Alaska Native the tusks must be tagged by a US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Ivory tagger. Taggers can be found in most coastal villages, contact USFWS at 1-800-362-5148 to locate your village tagger. Salvage by non-Natives is allowed, but all hard parts must be registered in person at a US Fish and Wildlife Service office.
Beach cast walrus carcasses are not uncommon. In 2018 we received 27 reports of beached or floating carcasses, with most coming from researchers working in the Chukchi Sea. We documented 79 carcasses at the haulout at Pt Lay. Most carcasses are not reported through the stranding network but are scavenged for the Ivory. In 2018 AK Natives reported tagging 97 tusks from beach cast walrus accounting for 48-57 walrus. I don't have access to the numbers as reported collected by non-Natives but guess its somewhere around 20 a year. These numbers are pretty constant from year to year. This a combination of natural moralities and struck and lost animals.
Gay Sheffield with UAF Alaska Sea Grant writes:
The round bumps on the neck are normal on an adult male - those bumps around the neck are areas of extra thick skin - like armor to them - when the males fight with each other during the breeding season over who gets to be with the females. Another word for those bumps is "tubercle" - you might see that word in the science writings about walruses. If you are able to get a sample of intestines with anuq in them (about half a Snickers candy bar amount of anuq) we may be able to tell if this walrus was affected by any toxic algae. Please let me (or LEO) know if you have questions or need any other info from this end of things. Thanks again for taking the time to make your report - we all learn something new together.
Comments from LEO Editors:
This observation was shared on June 19, 2019 with the USFWS Walrus Stranding Hotline. If you observe a stranded walrus, you can report it to the Stranding Hotline at 1-800-362-5148.