Walrus for Kids

Description: The Walrus is perfectly adapted for the grueling Arctic life. It is the largest member of the seal family. Males are gigantic and weigh up to 3,600 pounds. Females, called cows, may weigh up to 2,700 pounds. The most obvious characteristics of the Walrus are its pair of huge tusks that may measure over a foot in length. The tusks are actually elongated canine teeth which are used to help it haul its huge body out of the water, carve out breathing holes in the thick Arctic ice, and for displays of aggression. Walruses are usually gray and have thick, wrinkled, and often scarred skin. Walruses have a large amount of fat that insulates them from freezing water and ice. Long whiskers help the Walrus detect fish in Arctic waters.

Swimming: Walruses are graceful in the water. They can dive to depths of nearly 300 feet and can stay submerged for 30 minutes. Like other seals and sea lions, walruses are extremely awkward on land. They use their flippers to push their massive bodies along on ice, and may trample each other on their way to water.

Habitat/Range: The Walrus is found primarily north of the Arctic Circle in North America, Europe and Asia on polar ice sheets and throughout the Arctic Ocean. Commercial hunting in these areas has reduced its population, which once extended far south of the Arctic. The world population is estimated to be about 300,000.

Diet: Walruses feed on bottom-dwelling invertebrates such as clams. They also feed on fish and will even hunt seals on occasion. Walruses may also feed on whale carcasses.

Behavior: Walruses are very social and often congregate in huge herds that number up to several thousand. Such herds may pack themselves on small icebergs and create what seems to be a mountain of noisy, snorting walruses. Calves may rest themselves atop other individuals to prevent from being crushed. Male walruses are polygamous (they mate with several females) and will defend their harem (group) of females from competitors. Tusk battles between male walruses often result in severe lacerations to one or both walruses, and usually noticeable scars.

Reproduction/Young: Females give birth to a single calf that may weigh several hundred pounds at birth. Young walruses may be hunted by bold polar bears which will sometimes climb through a mountain of walruses to get their prey.

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