Walruses are some of the most intelligent creatures in the world. While generally friendly, they can be dangerous, especially if something aggravates them.
When Do Walruses Get Aggressive?
Most walruses aren’t dangerous or aggressive, but could be if you disturb their herd or try to hurt their young. Most female walruses will chase you if you get near their young, but this doesn’t usually end fatally. Male walruses also will be hostile during mating season. If they feel that another walrus is taking over their territory or if a human steps into the mating area, they could become very violent.
Some walruses might also get aggressive if they sense predators nearby. This is a warning to the predator to stay away. In fact, some bold walruses might even pick fights with polar bears but this is rare.
You can tell which walrus might be a little more temperamental than others by looking at their tusk size. Walruses with extremely long tusks are more aggressive than the others. This is because they have the vital job of protecting the herd from threats.
Has a Walrus Ever Killed a Human?
Walruses don’t typically kill humans, but there are a few times where they have.
One instance occurred at the Xixiajou Wildlife Park in 2016. A tourist at the zoo tried to get closer to a walrus and take pictures of it. The walrus noticed him and swam over. The tourist lost his footing and the walrus dragged him into the water. The zookeeper tried to save the man, but the walrus also grabbed onto him. The weight of the walrus caused their bodies to be crushed. However, rather than doing this out of aggressiveness, it’s believed the walrus was only trying to play with them. Most walruses are very playful and don’t realize how powerful their bodies are.
If they approach you without aggression, they probably want to play and aren’t intentionally looking to hurt you.
The main concern about walrus attacks for humans is if you are out on a boat. Walruses like to attack vessels although it’s not known why. Some professionals believe that they think of the boats as a larger animal and feel they need to protect themselves from it. One example of a walrus striking a boat was in 1918 in Norway. A herd of walruses approached a small boat and capsized it leading to all people aboard perishing.
While most of these attacks occur in the water, sometimes walruses will also jump on ice sheets to get to humans. In 1960, a Greenlander was out hunting for seals when he noticed a walrus approaching. Rather than staying in the water, the walrus hooked its tusks into the ice, lifted itself up, and chased the hunter as he tried to run away with a freshly-caught seal. While the animal didn’t kill him, the walrus did knock him unconscious, pierced him with one of their tusks, and hopped off with the seal.
Do Walruses Have Predators?
Most walruses don’t have many predators thanks to their large size. However, there are two they have to watch out for: orcas and polar bears. These animals tend to go after walrus calves because they’re not fully developed yet and easier to hunt.
To catch a walrus, an orca will chase it through the water and then slightly jump out of it to grasp onto their body. Polar bears will simply run after a walrus on land and try to bite into its body.
While not an animal, climate change is another one of this marine creature’s biggest nemesis. These animals live and mate on ice sheets and enjoy swimming in cold water, all of which are quickly melting and warming up due to climate change. If these disappear, it will make it harder for the walrus population to grow which could lead to it eventually becoming extinct.
How Do Walruses Defend Themselves?
Walruses utilize their tusks to keep predators away. Their ivory tusks are extremely strong and feature a very sharp pointed end. They will hit the predator with them and try to poke them with their tusks to keep them away. These tusks are surrounded by thick skin which prevents the predator from hurting them during the attack.
To get away from orcas, a walrus will swim quickly to an ice sheet and sink its tusks into it. This will provide them with a way to hoist their body up on the ice and escape from being a meal.
Besides predators, walruses also use their tusks to keep rivals away. For instance, if a male walrus wants to take over the herd, the current leader will show their dominance by lifting their head up and showing off their tusks.
Overall, the only defense mechanism a walrus is equipped with is its tusks. Without them, they would become easy prey.
All About Walruses
- This marine mammal can weigh up to 2,200 pounds.
- Wild walruses have a lifespan of 40 years.
- There are two main types of walruses: Atlantic and Pacific. The Atlantic walrus lives in areas near Canada and Greenland while the Pacific walrus lives near the Bering Sea.
- Both males and females have tusks. They use these to defend themselves, show dominance, and find potential mates.
- They don’t like to be in deep water and are often found swimming in shallow areas.
- A group of walruses is called a herd.
- It’s believed that there are 250,000 walruses in the world.
- They use their whiskers to search for food along the seafloor.
- Their diet mainly consists of mollusks, sea cucumbers, and worms. Sometimes they will also try catching small fish, like polar cod.
- Walrus tusks can grow to be up to three feet long.
- This animal’s scientific name (Odobenus rosmarus) means “one who walks with teeth”.
Walruses might be large animals, but they are very friendly and smart. Most of them are curious and won’t attack you unless they feel threatened. While you still need to be cautious when around one, they generally leave humans alone.