Atlantic Walrus | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Atlantic Walrus

Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus

Also known as

Walrus

Distribution

Eastern Arctic

Écosystèmes/habitats

Shallow (80m or less), open water areas with soft sea floors close to land or pack ice

Feeding Habits

Foraging predator

Conservation Status

Special concern/data deficient

Taxonomie

Order Pinnipedia (seals, sea lions and relatives); Family Odobenidae (walruses)

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The Atlantic walrus is one of the most iconic marine mammals of the Arctic, thanks to its large, ivory tusks. These tusks are actually elongated canine teeth. Both males and females have them, although the males’ tusks are much longer. Walruses are very large: adult males weigh between 1,000 to 2,000 kilograms. Because of their size, they are rather clumsy and slow-moving on land, but in the water they have smooth and graceful swimming abilities. 

Atlantic walrus living in Canada’s Arctic were assessed in 2006 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as of Special Concern. They were given this designation due to decreases in populations caused by hunting throughout the 17th to 20th centuries and due to their limited recovery, since they only reproduce every two to three  years. There is not sufficient research on Canadian Atlantic walrus populations to assess them any further than warranting special concern. Walruses have very specific habitat requirements, restricted seasonal distributions and rely on sea ice for successful reproduction. Increasing human activity in the Arctic and the impact of climate change will limit their chances for recovery. The Northwest Atlantic or Maritime population is considered Extirpated due to overhunting in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are occasional sightings of walruses in these areas but an established population no longer exists.