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Alaska Marine Mammals Management: Student Tracks Pacific Walrus Subsistence Harvest
Alaska Region, October 15, 2012
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Native Alaskan hunters leaving St. Lawrence Island, Alaska to hunt Pacific Walrus in May 2012.  Walruses are typically hunted while resting on sea ice as they migrate north through the Bering Strait.
Native Alaskan hunters leaving St. Lawrence Island, Alaska to hunt Pacific Walrus in May 2012. Walruses are typically hunted while resting on sea ice as they migrate north through the Bering Strait. - Photo Credit: Sara Tittle

Ms. Sara Tittle, an undergaduate student at the University of Alaska Anchorage has been employed under the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) by the Marine Mammals Management office in Anchorage, AK for several years. She has assisted the Pacific Walrus Program in a variety of office and laboratory tasks, but in May 2012 was able to spend a couple of weeks on St. Lawrence Island in the northern Bering Sea assisting in the Walrus Harvest Monitoring Program (WHMP). About 90% of the harvest of walruses in the United States is by residents of the Native Villages of Gambell and Savoonga, AK on the island. The WHMP provides data used to estimate the size and timing of the harvest, demographics, and environmental conditions, all of which can be useful in assessing harvest sustainability. Walruses are typically harvested while resting on sea ice as the ice retreats north through the Bering Strait. Hunters often travel 50 miles or more from the villages and WHMP crews meet boats at the beach as they return from a hunt to collect the harvest data. This can be cold and exhausting work as many hunters take advantage of increasingly limited favorable hunting weather windows and can return at anytime of the day. Unfortunately for the Service, Sara will be pursuing a career in medicine, but her assistance to the walrus program has been invaluable and she will be greatly missed.


Contact Info: James MacCracken, 907-786-3803, james_maccracken@fws.gov



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