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Odobenus rosmarus

The Atlantic walrus (O. r. rosmarus) and Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) are an exclusively Arctic species. In fact, they are the sole surviving member of the once diverse and widespread “Odobenidae” family. In terms of appearance, these animals boast long tusks and great bulk (up to 4,400lbs (2,000kg)).

Unlike eared seals and true seals, which feed primarily by hunting fish and squid in the water column, these pinnipeds generally prefer benthic invertebrates. In particular, clams. They display a unique squirt-and-suck method of feeding on molluscs that differentiates them from the other pinniped lineages.

Indigenous Arctic peoples have hunted them for meat, fat, skin, tusks and bone. For this reason, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, these animals experienced heavy commercial exploitation for blubber and ivory. Hence, their numbers declined rapidly. However, populations have since rebounded.

The Atlantic subspecies prefers the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean, Bering Sea, James Bay and the Labrador coast. Photographers also seek out these creatures in colonies in Alaska. Some of the best locations to view these animals include the Round Island Walrus Sanctuary and the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, as well as the ice flows near Barrow and other Arctic Alaskan villages.

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