The tooth-walkers of the Arctic
The sight, sound – and not at least smell of a large group of walrus, is quite impressive. As the number of walrus and walrus haul-outs is increasing in some areas of the Arctic, so is the chance to see them. Watching undisturbed wildlife in its natural environments is a great experience. To avoid any disturbance when around walrus, you are asked to be considerate and follow these wildlife guidelines.
National and local regulations may include other provisions, which may be more stringent and require a further distance from walrus. Always check and abide by the legal requirements in the area you are visiting.
Cows and calves
- Mothers with calves are much more sensitive to disturbance than the bulls. Keep at least 150 meters distance – if necessary more. Stampedes may cause mortality of calves.
Walrus on land
- Inform visitors before landing about the approaching procedure, and tell them to always follow the signals from the leading guide.
- Landings must be made in a minimum distance of 300 meters from the haul out site. Make sure that the wind direction is from the walruses and towards the visitor group.
- Divide into smaller groups (< 50). Do not walk up to the animals from different directions – the visitors should approach from only one side of a walrus group.
- Walk slowly towards the animals, make stops and watch reactions to your presence.
- Avoid making a half circle around the animals. The visiting group should stay together to reduce the impact of their presence.
- Never get between the animals and the sea – walk ‘inland’ of them.
- Avoid sudden appearances on the horizons which create silhouettes that are visible to the animals. Low approaches are always best, staying below the horizon.
- Keep commentary, conversation and engine noise to a minimum.
- Let their behavior decide how close you go. If they show any sign of disturbance, retreat quietly and slowly.
- Never go closer than 30 meters (150 m from cows with calves) irrespective of how undisturbed the walruses might seem.
Walrus on the ice
- Walrus spend a lot of time on the ice and the same careful approach methods should apply as when they are encountered ashore. Be especially sensitive to females with calves.
- Do not go close to swimming walrus. Walrus are very powerful swimmers, and might attack the Zodiac using their tusks, if they feel threatened.
- Keep low speed in waters with walrus.
- Draw back if walrus approach.
- Never swim, kayak or dive in walrus waters – it is dangerous.
- Actively prevent yourself being surrounded by walrus in the sea. Make sure you are always outside the periphery of a group of walrus.