Atlantic Walrus (Central-Low Arctic population)

Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

Walruses are large gregarious fin-footed mammals with upper canine teeth that grow into long tusks and a moustache of quill-like whiskers. Newborns are 120 cm long and 55 kg; males can grow to 315 cm (1100 kg) and females to 277 cm (800 kg). The Atlantic Walrus, Odobenus is one of two extant subspecies, the other being the Pacific Walrus. Ecologically, the Walrus is important as the only species in its genus and a key link in the Arctic food web between bivalve molluscs and humans. The life span of a walrus is over 35 years and a female can produce a single calf about every three years.

Habitat

The Atlantic Walrus ranged historically from the central Canadian Arctic east to the Kara Sea, north to Svalbard and south to Nova Scotia. There are three walrus populations in Canada: High Arctic, Central/Low Arctic and Nova Scotia-Newfoundland- Gulf of St Lawrence (extirpated). The High Arctic population is shared with Greenland and includes: Penny Strait-Lancaster Sound, western Jones Sound, and Baffin Bay. Aerial surveys in August 2009 yielded best estimates 2,481 total Walruses in the High Arctic population. While no evidence of a trend exists, recent estimates of population size in some areas of the range of the Central-Low Arctic population are higher than in the past.

Atlantic Walruses occupy a large range but have a quite narrow ecological niche. They require large areas of shallow water (80 m or less) with bottom substrates that support a productive bivalve community, the reliable presence of open water over feeding areas, and suitable ice or land nearby upon which to haul out. Open-water areas are important during the winter.

Threats

Threats to Walruses include possible unsustainable hunting in some areas, unreported harvesting, increased human disturbances which may cause Walruses to stampede into the water, interfere with feeding, increase energy expenditures, mask communications, impair thermoregulation and increase stress levels. Prolonged or repeated disturbances may cause Walruses to abandon their haul out sites. Current threats from industrial activities, including shipping related disturbance, are low but may increase rapidly within the decade in some areas. Climatic changes may expose Walruses to greater hunting pressure and alter trophic dynamics.

Further Information

This species is under consideration for listing as Special Concern under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available on the Species at Risk Public Registry. To find out if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' website.

Text Sources:

Scientific Information:

  • DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada). 2002. Atlantic Walrus. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Stock Status Rep. E5–17, 18, 19, 20: 19 pp.
  • DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada). 2013. Proceedings of the Pre-COSEWIC Peer Review Meeting for Atlantic Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus); February 28 to March 1, 2012. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Proceed. Ser. 2012/041: iv + 29 p.
  • DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada). 2016. Estimates of abundance and total allowable removals for Atlantic Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) in Foxe Basin. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Advis. Rep. 2016/007: 10 pp.

Atlantic Walrus (Central-Low Arctic population)

Atlantic Walrus. Illustration by Jeffrey C. Domm.

Atlantic Walrus. Illustration by Jeffrey C. Domm.

Scientific name: Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus
Taxonomy: Mammals (marine)
SARA Status: Under Consideration
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern (2017)
Region: Nunavut

Region map

Nunavut

Nunavut

Did You Know?

The Atlantic Walrus was previously assessed by COSEWIC as Special Concern in 2006 when all of the eastern Arctic Walruses were treated as a single population. In 2017 the population was reassessed by COSEWIC as a species of Special Concern, but was split into High Arctic and Central-Low Arctic populations.

Atlantic Walrus

Atlantic Walrus

Related Information

Date modified: