A Wealth of Walruses - The Reykjavik Grapevine

A Wealth of Walruses

Published September 30, 2013

Larissa Kyzer

There have been more total walrus sightings here in Iceland this year than there have been since the eighteenth century, RÚV reports. Zoologist Ævar Petersen says that it’s possible that the walrus population has gotten stronger and that melting ice in the arctic has caused animals to wander from their usual environments.
Walruses have been seen here in Iceland at least six times from the start of the summer. As best as can be determined, these sightings have been of four different walruses. One of the walruses has been spotted in Reyðarfjörður, Berufjörður, and Breiðamerkursandur. Another came ashore at Skálanes in Seyðisfjörður. A third was seen by whale watchers at the harbor at Húsavík. And yesterday, a walrus appeared near there, around Borgarförður Eystra, but it’s been determined that this was probably not the same walrus from Húsavík.  
Ævar Petersen says that it is extremely rare to have so many walrus sighting here over such a short period of time. “Considering the records which exist, you’d have to go rather far back [to find a similar number of walrus sightings]. Actually, it’s not before 1708 that you see similar numbers,” he said. “In the fall of 1708, it was said that there were over 30 walrus sightings in the East Fjords and that there were 28 around Borgarförður Eystra.”
It is difficult to say what the reasons for the increasing number of walruses here in Iceland. “The population is somewhat stronger to the north of us,” Ævar says. “It was pretty depleted due to hunting in previous years, but it has been recovering.”
Walruses, like polar bears, are dependent on ice in Arctic and its melting can drive them off course in their migration.

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