35,000 walruses have mobbed the Alaskan coast—because there’s no sea ice left to rest on

Quartz

It’s exhausting, being a walrus. Seals can swim indefinitely. Not walruses. After a day cruising Arctic water for food, they like to plant their tusks onto an ice floe, haul their blubbery selves up, and have a snooze. But it’s been hard to find a comfy chunk of sea ice this summer. So walruses are opting for the next best thing: Alaska.

arctic global warming climate change rising temperatures ice In this aerial photo taken on Sept. 23, 2014 and released by NOAA, some 1500 walrus are gather on the northwest coast of Alaska. Pacific walrus looking for places to rest in the absence of sea ice are coming to shore in record numbers, according to NOAA. (AP Photo/NOAA, Corey Accardo This June 2014 released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows Pacific walruses in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska. Researchers are trying to get a better handle on the size of the Pacific walrus population ahead of an expected decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on whether the animals need special protections. (AP Photo/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska’s new herd of walruses.

An estimated 35,000 have overrun the coast north of Point Lay, in northwest Alaska, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

arctic global warming climate change rising temperatures ice In this aerial photo taken on Sept. 23, 2014 and released by NOAA, some 1500 walrus are gather on the northwest coast of Alaska. Pacific walrus looking for places to rest in the absence of sea ice are coming to shore in record numbers, according to NOAA. (AP Photo/NOAA, Corey Accardo This June 2014 released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows Pacific walruses in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska. Researchers are trying to get a better handle on the size of the Pacific walrus population ahead of an expected decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on whether the animals need special protections. (AP Photo/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service A pocket of several hundred walruses gather near Point Lay.

Walruses in the Bering Sea use ice floes as floating home bases between dives to the sea bottom, where they snack on clams and other mollusks. In the winter, that’s no problem. And until recently, it wasn’t an issue in summer, either. Normally, female walruses and their young follow the sea ice north into the relatively…

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