The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared its investigations on the deaths of 25 walruses, of which many were spotted without heads and tusks, on a remote northwest part of the Alaskan coast, just 40 miles from the north of Point Hope.
The walruses were specifically found near an Air Force radar area, where there is minimal labor force. The said site near Cape Lisburne has become the primary basis of the fed's investigation on the matter. One personnel from the said station informed the wildlife agency immediately after seeing the carcasses.
The fatal bunch also included 12 pups with some noted to have missing head and tusks. The headless animals were said to have had their tusks harvested. Some locals also claimed that some of the walruses had bullet holes.
The exact reason for the deaths of the marine animals has not been clearly confirmed, said Andrea Medeiros, a spokesperson from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. According to her, the agency does not want to place assumptions. As per the initial reports, conclusions cannot be made yet and they have to go out there and investigate.
The headless walruses that had lost tusks do not immediately mean that an illegal action had been performed, explained Medeiros. The marine animals could have succumbed to death while in the ocean and were just washed on the shore.
Natives of Alaska living in the state are the only individuals allowed to hunt walruses for survival and livelihood. However, the federal government allows anyone to obtain the ivory, teeth and bones of the animals that have been found dead on beaches or on the shore that is situated some quarter of a mile from the water, provided that they follow several rules. Despite this rule, feds still emphasize that head hunting is illegal and that this rule is only applicable for dead animals.
The skull and tusk of a walrus are considered collectors' items and its ivory is usually carved to make beautiful trinkets and jewelry items.
The authorities arrived at the Chukchi Sea on Thursday, Sept 17. According to them, they wanted to pursue with their investigations as early as possible before other animals such as polar bears and gulls, prey on them. "Time is of the essence," said Medeiros. "We really appreciate people notifying us promptly."
Photo: Hans Splinter | Flickr