Residents of the Inupiat Eskimo village of Point Lay, about 700 miles northwest of Anchorage, alerted officials to the approximately 10,000 walrus left without their usual sea ice habitat.
Villagers and aircraft are asked to avoid frightening the animals into deadly stampedes.
Similar desperate strandings have occurred in all but two years since 2007, when Arctic sea ice began to dramatically disappear during summer.
Walrus breed on the floating ice and use it as a diving platform to reach and feed on small bottom-dwelling animals such as worms and clams on the shallow continental shelf below.
But the ice has retreated northward during recent summers to where the Arctic is 10,000 feet deep, making it impossible for the walrus to reach the bottom.
Hungry, desperate and confused, the animals have resorted to crowding onto small slivers of land just off Alaska’s Arctic mainland.
Photo: Stan Churches-NOAA Fisheries