Looking more like a crowded summer beach than a frosty Alaskan coastline, walruses cram the sand in this recent shot from Point Lay in the northwest corner of the state. A contractor spotted a total of 8000 walruses in two sections of beach during an aerial survey of the Chukchi Sea Wednesday.
While female walruses and their young usually camp out on sea ice each summer, warmer waters forced the families into becoming beach bums. As the animals' icy home receded to deeper waters, food from the ocean floor was put out of reach. The walruses have packed the shores in four of the last five summers in what has become a seasonal display of climate change. Last year they came in record numbers with as many as 20,000 walruses jamming the shores of Point Lay. The dense conditions increase the risk for deadly stampedes.
New ScientistMichael Marshall : Marine Life shifts as temperatures rise