In the category of news I can’t make up, flights to Alaska have been rerouted due to a large (35,000) crowd of walruses.
The sad part is the reason why the flights are being rerouted. Apparently, if they are spooked enough, they can trample each other.
Until 2007, it was unheard of for walruses to leave the sea ice for dry land for prolonged periods of time. But the retreat of sea ice has seen “drastic changes” in behaviour, Jay said. Walruses have struck out for beaches in six of the last eight years.
But the immediate concern was to avoid a stampede – a leading risk factor for walruses when they crowd onto beaches and barrier islands.
The FAA is asking pilots to remain above 2,000ft and half a mile away from the walruses. Helicopters – a bigger risk to the walruses because they are noisier – have been asked to remain 3,000ft up and a mile away. News crews, which have been clamouring to film the walruses, have also been asked to stay away.
Walruses are naturally skittish animals, unused to being closely packed together. They also spend 80% of their time on water. Those in the Chukchi sea this time of year are generally females and juveniles and so at greater risk of being trampled to death.
I put bits and pieces here, but check out the whole article for more information.