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TOGIAK: Winter Walrus Survey Brings Surprise Results
Alaska Region, February 9, 2005
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On January 7, 2005, Togiak Refuge staff counted 1,414 Pacific walruses at the Cape Peirce and Cape Newenham haulouts in southwestern Alaska, two of four popular haulouts for walruses in the Bristol Bay area at the southern edge of the range for this species.

High January counts of walrus were unexpected since peak numbers at the sites during the 2004 summer field season was only 31 animals! This news stirred interest among Togiak Refuge staff, the Service's Marine Mammals Management staff, local residents, and the Qayassiq Walrus Commission (Native Alaskans who oversee walrus harvest within the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary).

Although walrus are known to use the edge of the Bering Sea pack ice in winter, little information exists regarding winter use of the terrestrial Bristol Bay walrus haulouts. As a result, Togiak Refuge staff began aerial surveys to document walrus activity in the Cape Peirce and Cape Newenham areas.

Cape Newenham also provides a terrestrial haulout for endangered Steller sea lions and this area has been included in the survey effort. Every flight to this haulout has found Steller sea lions present with a high of 140 animals recorded.

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov



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