In shape, the walrus looks a lot like his pinniped relatives, the seal and sea lion, but two major characteristics set the walrus apart: its much larger size, and the gigantic tusks found on both male and female adults. In fact, the genus name for the walrus, Odobenus, means tooth-walker, and truthfully describes the great use walruses get from their tusks. Tusks can be used for climbing on both ice and land, but also come in handy for fighting and for responding to emergencies, like rescuing a calf by furiously chopping at an ice flow, as one mother was seen to do. Animals with the largest tusks are dominant over the others, but walruses are also fiercely loyal, and will not abandon injured brethren. Adult male walruses can weigh as much as 4,000 pounds, making them by far the largest of the pinnipeds, and although they are generally harmless, their great size and inquisitiveness means you should be very careful around them. Alaska Natives have long relied on walruses for food and for the many uses they get from the hide and gut. In fact, early Alaska Natives made rain gear out of the gut of walrus and covered kayaks in their hides.
Where to find them
There are two kinds of walrus, a Pacific variety and an Atlantic variety. The Pacific variety are far more numerous, and are found in the Bering and Chuckchi seas, from Bristol Bay in Southwest Alaska to Point Barrow in the Far North.
When to come
The easiest time to see walrus is in the summer, though they are around all year long.