The Widening Gyre

Rogues' Gallery
Signs of the Times

Wild Things

The Bulls of Bristol Bay

"For as long as humans can remember, every summer walrus bulls 'haulout' along the beaches of Bristol Bay to sun and feed themselves in anticipation of the long winter ahead. The giant herds - there are an estimated 12,000 bulls -- congregate in a corner of the Togiak National Wildlife Reserve; together they form the largest concentration of walruses on the North American mainland" (Mark Miller, 1996).

"Until the fall of 1994 the walruses were content to lounge along the sandy shore. Then one day, says Togiak Reserve manager Aaron Archibeque, a fierce storm struck the cape, and some of the animals retreated up a bluff ... Perhaps disoriented or unsteady on rain-slickened grass, 42 of the bulls fell over the edge of the cliff. During another storm in October 1995, 17 more died" (Mark Miller, 1996).

"... this year, the walruses began climbing the bluff on a clear, moonlit night. The next morning, two biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service camping at a field station near the beach noticed the migration. They managed to turn back 150 bulls, Archibeque says, but 70 reached the top where almost all plunged to their death" (Mark Miller, 1996).

No one knows why they go up the cliff but "(o)nce at the top, the walruses may simply get too close to turn around" (Mark Miller, 1996).

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