Awho’d been receiving “round-the-clock” cuddles as part of his treatment has died, the Alaska SeaLife Center said on Saturday.
The Pacific walrus calf, believed to be roughly a month old, was found lost and alone about 4 miles inland from the Beaufort Sea. He arrived at the Alaska SeaLife Center on Aug. 1 after being discovered by workers on the state’s North Slope.
The calf was struggling with several serious health issues along with nutrient malabsorption, the center said. His condition took a turn for the worse and he died Friday.
“While often rewarding, wildlife rescue is inherently unpredictable, and with it comes the possibility of great loss,” the center said in an online post. “For those that dedicate their lives to animal care, this is the hardest part of the job.”
A necropsy will be performed to determine the walrus’ cause of death. He’d been dealing with hypoglycemia and gastrointestinal problems.
As part of his care regimen in his final days, the calf received “round-the-clock” cuddling because of how critical it is for young walruses to be close to their mothers in the first two years of life, the center said.
The walrus, which weighed around 140 pounds, was the first walrus patient the Alaska SeaLife Center had treated in four years.
Walruses tend to migrate into the Beaufort Sea during years with low amounts of sea ice, which the animals rely upon to rest, according to the Marine Mammal Commission. The number of walruses in the region is expected to decline as global temperatures continue to warm and sea ice melts, “although the magnitude of the predicted decline is unknown.”
According to the World Wildlife Fund, commutes to shore can be more than 100 miles because of declining ice.
“Often, young calves do not survive the full journey. If they do make it to land, walruses are already fatigued by their travel, and in these locations, nearby food sources may be quickly exhausted,” the fund says. “In addition, as walrus are easily spooked — by humans, vehicles, polar bears, or even small animals — they can trample one another in a stampede to the sea. Tragically, many walruses, particularly young calves, die in these stampedes.”
Li Cohen contributed to this report.