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Walrus

size:

Males: maximum 3.60 meter
Females: maximum 3 meters

weight:

Males: maximum 1900 kilogram
females: maximum 1200 kilogram

color:

Greyish-light brown, often with flesh-colored scars, spots or bumps

age:

Maximum 40 years

food:

Mainly shellfish, but also worms, snails, shrimp, squid and benthic

movement:

Swimming and a kind of shuffling on land

enemies:

People (hunt) and polar bears

reproduction:

Sexually
Mature: from 4-7 years
Number: one young per two years

  • Dut: walrus
  • Eng: walrus
  • Fren: morse
  • Ger: Walroß
  • Lat: Odobenus rosmarus
  • Dan: Hvalros
  • Nor: Hvalros
Een walrusmannetje met vrouwtje, LindsayRs via flickr.com

Walrus

You can't miss the tusks of the walrus. Male walrusses can have tusks up to 1 meter long. Females also have tusks, but they are shorter. These long teeth may look awkward, but the walrus certainly knows how to put them to use. It uses them as an ice ax to help hoist itself onto slippery ice, or as pickax to loosen shellfish from the sea bottom. It also uses them as a weapon to fight rivals and as an ornament to attract females.

On Texel


Walrus in the Wadden Sea, De Cocksdorp 1976., Ecomare

In 1976, a wild walrus visited Texel, near the village 't Horntje. Gerrit de Haan, then director of the organizarion that later became Ecomare, attempted to catch the animal. He was unsuccessful. Five years later, a walrus was again spotted in the Marsdiep.

  • Walrusses in the Netherlands

    When most people think of walruses, they place them in very northerly regions. However, every once in a while one will swim around in the North Sea. In the 'Vischboeck' in 1578, the Scheveninger Adriaen Coenen described the beaching of a 'sea horse' with two long extended teeth. The German Albrecht Dürer made a drawing in the same century of a walrus head during a visit to the Dutch coast. He wrote that the animal was caught in the Dutch sea. The first actual reference to the name "walrus" dates back to 1761, when Houtuyn wrote that a young walrus was caught in the Zuiderzee several years earlier.

    The first report of a walrus in the North Sea in the 20th century dates back to 1926. This animal wandered from the Shetland Islands via the Norwegian coast to Den Helder and then back up north. It was shot in Sweden on 27 January 1927. A second walrus was reported in 1976, this time on Texel. It swam further to Zeeland (Colijnsplaat in the Oosterschelde) and Belgium and was eventually seen again on Texel. In 1979, several people saw a walrus swimming in the Marsdiep, but this sighting is not well documented.

    The next walrus was reported in 1981 on the beach of Terschelling and Ameland. After a short stay in the seal sanctuary Lenie 't Hart and a somewhat longer stay in the basin of the former RIN (now IMARES) on Texel, the animal was released by Helgoland. Because the animal was marked with paint before its release, it could be seen again swimming near Hornum (Schleswig-Holstein), Esbjerg and Skagen (Denmark).

    In 1982, the Cadée family spotted a walrus close to 't Horntje on Texel. Three days later, it was seen near Den Helder and its picture made frontpage news.

    The last walrus seen on land was on 21 January 1998 on the beach of Ameland. The animal was very healthy, at least two meters long, 600 kilograms and an estimated six years old. It was in the evening news and national papers. It was then seen swimming in the North Sea on 22 January, in the direction of Juist (Niedersacksen), where it crawled onto the beach for a short time the next day. A week later, a walrus was seen by Hornum (Schleswig-Holstein) and another week later along the Swedish coast of the Kattegat; and it probably was the same animal. The wandering continued to Oslo and the Norwegian coastal town of Svelvik, arriving in early March.

    DateLocation and details
    1926 Den Helder
    1976 Texel-Colijnsplaat-Belgium coast-Texel
    1979 Marsdiep (obscure report)
    1981 Terschelling/Ameland
    1982 Texel
    1998 Ameland
    from various sources, including: van Bree, 1996 and reports from Seal Sanctuary Lenie 't Hart
  • Fossils finds in the Netherlands
    Shin bone from a walrus, found on Texel in 1990., Ecomare

    During every sand nourishment, bones are among the objects spouted onto the beach. The nourishment of 1990 on the beach of Texel carried several bones from marine mammals. They were brought to Ecomare and determined to belong to a walrus. The exact age of the bones could not be determined. It could have come from an animal that lived more than 2000 years ago. However, it could also have come from a walrus living more recently. In that case, it is possible that a Dutch walrus hunter from the 17th or 18th century threw the bones overboard in the vicinity of the Wadden Islands.

  • Distribution and habitat
    Walrusses, foto fitis, adriaan dijksen

    Walruses are found in just about the entire North Pole region. They live in the sea from eastern Canada and Greenland to northern Europe and western Alaska. Depending upon the season, they live either on the pack ice or one the beaches and rocky coasts. As of the 21st century, there are around 250,000 walruses living in the vicinity of the North Pole. Walruses were probably among the normal fauna of the southern North Sea up to 2000 years ago, but were driven away to more northerly regions by man. It is a rare occasion when a walrus wanders into the southern North Sea.