JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A walrus calf found miles from the sea on Alaska’s northern slope last week, receiving cuddles as part of its care after being rescued, died Friday.
“Rescuing wildlife, while often rewarding, is inherently unpredictable and carries the potential for large losses. For those who dedicate their lives to caring for animals, this is the hardest part of the job,” the Alaska SeaLife Center, the nonprofit research facility and public aquarium that oversees it, said in an online statement.
The Pacific walrus calf, admitted to the center on August 1 after being found by oilfield workers a day earlier, had been battling a number of health problems, including nutrient malabsorption. The day before his death, he suffered from other complications, including hypoglycemia and gastrointestinal problems, the center said.
“Although our animal care teams worked tirelessly to provide around-the-clock intensive care and never left his side, the calf ultimately succumbed to his condition,” the center said. An autopsy is planned.
The brown, wrinkled baby was believed to be around a month old. The center said last week that the walrus was “cuddled” “around the clock” to mimic the near-constant care a calf would receive from its mother to keep it calm and aid its development. The center described the cuddling as a sort of trained staff that gave the walrus “an opportunity to have a warm body to lean on, which it took advantage of almost constantly.”
The Pacific walrus’ range includes the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas, but according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, walruses are occasionally spotted in areas like the Beaufort Sea to the northeast.
The calf was found about 4 miles inland on the Beaufort Sea in far north Alaska. A “walrus track” or track was seen on the tundra near a road where the walrus was found. However, it’s unclear exactly how he got there, the center said.