I noticed in my site logs that someone came to the site today off of the Google Query “How many Pacific Walruses are there in the world?” A good question – so I Googled it myself, and I’ll add the info to the site now, thanks to the excellent “Walrus Info Book” on Seaworld.org (Link to HTML, Link to PDF).
- Total world walrus population is about 250,000 animals.
- The Pacific walrus population is currently unknown but was last estimated at more than 200,000 animals in 1990.
- The Pacific walrus population has been hunted to depletion and allowed to recover several times.
- After the latest population depletion, which began in the 1930s, Pacific walruses were given protection by Russia, the State of Alaska, and the U.S. federal government. This protection led to the eventual recovery of the Pacific walrus population. Walruses reoccupied areas where they had not been seen for several years.
- By the early 1980s, walruses appeared leaner. They increased their consumption of alternate foods such as fishes. Natural mortality increased, and birth rates decreased. This evidence supports the theory that the Pacific walrus population may have approached the carrying capacity of its environment.
- As the Pacific walrus population grew, annual subsistence catches by indigenous Arctic peoples ranged from about 3,000 to 16,000 walruses per year until about 1990, and then decreased to an average of 5,789 animals per year from 1996 to 2000. Some scientists predict that, without long-term management, natural and human-related mortality factors could rapidly reduce the population once more.
- Currently the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the Russian Knipovich Polar Research Institute are jointly undertaking a walrus population study. Using infrared imaging they locate walrus groups hauled out on sea ice. High resolution digital photography allows researchers to estimate group numbers. They also use satellite telemetry to estimate the percentage of the population visible during counts
So now we’ve got the info as well! Although I notice that this info refers to 1990 counts, and one must assume that there have been wide variations in population since then. Very likely an overall reduction I’m afraid. EDIT 4/7/2011: Looks like the revised numbers have the current Pacific Walrus numbers at only 180,000 animals. When I find the official update report, I will repost the correct and latest numbers.