Suppose you had a dream of a big animal covered with wrinkly, blubbery skin, living in the cold northern Pacific Ocean, with long ivory tusks sticking out of his mouth. Would you be surprised to learn that there really is such an animal? There is! It is known as the walrus.
Where They Live
Walruses live in the Arctic, North Atlantic, and North Pacific Oceans. These oceans are cold since they are near the North Pole. Walruses live in these cold waters. They swim close to the coasts where they like to stay. In the spring and winter, they like to float on the ice close to shore.
Weight and Length
The male walruses are called bulls and a female walruses are called are cows. The bull weighs 2 tons and cows weigh 1 ton. The bulls are 10-12 ft. long, and cows are 8-9 ft. long. Some walruses are a pink to a light brown color.
What They Eat
Walruses have a big appetite, too. Their favorite food is clams, but they also eat snails, crabs, shrimp, mud worms, urchins and mussels, a type of fish. They donít eat every day, but when they do, they eat a lot. Walruses have been found with a 100 pounds of food in their stomachs. What weighs more, a walrus or a polar bear? A Walruses does! A bull walrus weighs about 2 tons, while a polar bear weighs about 900 pounds. Still, polar bears are dangerous and eat walruses.
Mating and Babies
In mating season, males make bell type noises under the water. This brings the females to him and makes some of the other males leave. Sometimes the males use their tusks to fight over the cows.
Walruses have one baby every other year. That is a problem because they only have a few babies born per year, and it takes a long time for them to grow in numbers. The breeding times for walruses are February and March, and the babies donít grow up until June. Baby walruses are called calves. The calves weigh 85-140 pounds when they are born. The calves are colored dark grayish-brown.
Walruses and Seals
Walruses are considered a type of seal, but they are different from regular seals. Like the narwhals, they have long tusks that are actually teeth. They grow up to 2 feet long on cows and 4 feet long on the bulls. Each of the walruses has 2 ivory tusks. The longer the tusks is the more important the walrus is in the group that he or she is in. Walruses stay in herds their whole lives. They use the tusks to dig up their food from the bottom of the ocean floor. They have bristles on their faces to sense their food across the ocean floor. Walruses also have feet! The walruses, unlike the seals that drag their tails around, can walk faster than people can run.
A hundred years ago, there were 200,000 walruses in the Pacific Ocean. About 1970, the number had fallen to about 45,000. Most of the fall was caused by people hunting walruses. Now it has risen again to about 200,000, though we are not sure that this number is right. There were restrictions places on hunting. There are about 20,000 walruses in the Atlantic. About 6,000 a year are killed by their enemies. These include killer whales, polar bears, and humans. Walruses never attack a people without being attacked first, but a walrus that is mad or injured could easily hurt a person or damage a boat. Like the narwhal, walruses are useful to humans. People use the walruses meat to eat for themselves and feed the sled dogs. They use the oil for food, and the skin to build shelter, boats, coats etc.
Walruses are big and wrinkly animals. They are funny looking, too. Donít be fooled, they are very strong and sometimes dangerous. They are very interesting, too. People should leave them alone.
Beckett, Samuel. Arctic Animals: Walruses http://tqjunior.thinkuest.org/3500/walruses.html. February 10, 2002.
Sea World Adventure Parks: What are Seals, Sea Lions, and Walruses? http://seaworld.org/Pinnipeds/whatarethey.html. February 10, 2002.
Waters, John F. Some Mammals Live in the Sea. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1972.
"Walruses." The World Book Encyclopedia, 1999.