Photo: Thousands of Walruses haul out near Point Lay

Thousands of walruses haul out on a barrier island beach near Point Lay in the Chukchi Sea. (Credit: NOAA)

(Click to enlarge) Thousands of walruses haul out on a barrier island beach near Point Lay in the Chukchi Sea. (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA researchers recently captured this amazing photo of thousands of walruses on a beach in the Chukchi Sea. NOAA biologists estimate there were roughly 10,000 walruses on the beach as of Sept. 27.

“Large walrus haulouts along the Alaskan coasts in the northeastern Chukchi Sea are a relatively new phenomenon,” said Megan Ferguson, a marine mammal scientist with NOAA Fisheries, in a press release.

Walruses typically use ice as a resting platform while foraging but low ice levels have the animals heading for shore. Researchers say that the use of beaches as a haul out area is a new phenomenon. The first documented large-scale haul out occurred in 2007, when the Chukchi saw record low ice levels. Since then, haul outs have been documented in a number of locations in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013.

NOAA scientists will be conducting daily surveys through the end of October if weather permits as part of the annual Aerial Survey of Arctic Marine Mammals.