Dredging Crew Saves Abandoned Baby Walrus


July 2016

Updated December 2020

A crew saved a baby walrus that ended up on their boat during a gold dredging project near Nome, Alaska.

The AU Grabber dredging boat had a surprise guest while it was dredging for gold off the coast of Nome, Alaska.

None of the mining crew aboard noticed the baby walrus until sometime after it had already boarded the dredge. They figured it had been washed aboard by a wave their project caused. Normally, a lone walrus calf is an unusual find. They are typically accompanied by their mothers for the first two years of their lives.

Dangerous situations such as predator encounters, however, can sometimes cause a walrus mother to abandon her calf–usually a death sentence for the little one, who, even if it is lucky enough to survive, can now never join a herd. Walruses are social and form steadfast bonds, and so outsiders rarely are accepted into a herd.

Estimated two week old baby walurs

Helping Hands

Thankfully, this dredging crew was there for this little one. Crew member Hank Schimschat recalled that the baby followed them around the boat like a little puppy. Mindful of the walrus’ needs, they tried not to pet or feed it too much so that it would keep its caution around humans. They left the little guy on the dredge once their day was done, thinking it would return to the water, but when they discovered the next morning that the calf was still there they knew that they would need professional help.

The crew called the Alaska SeaLife Center, which flew the 120 pound baby to its facility in Seward, Alaska. While awaiting organization of the flight, the dredging crew took the walrus back to Nome, where a marine ecology professor named Gay Sheffield examined it. She confirmed its gender as male, estimated his age at only two weeks old, and noted that he was quite sick.

A New Home

Now, however, the little calf is doing well at the Alaska SeaLife Center. He has constant and direct care, enough food to help bring him back to health, and other walruses to socialize with. The SeaLife Center is seeking institutions to transfer him to that can care for him long term, since he cannot be released into the wild.

The baby walrus does not yet have a name, but he will soon have his health restored and a permanent home, thanks in part to a dredging crew that was in the right place at the right time and cared enough to help.

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