Observations were made on hems of the Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) to study their response during the capturing and handling of adult males in summer 1995 at a haul-out at Cape Peirce in southwestern Alaska. Three behaviors (alertness, displacement, and dispersal) were quantified from 16 capture sessions. Herd sizes ranged from 622 to 5,289 walruses. Handling of an immobilized walrus consisted of attempts to attach telemetry devices to the tusks and collect various biological samples. Handling activities resulted in an average of about 10-fold or greater levels of behavior in alertness, displacement, and dispersal than during precapture and darting periods. High levels of behavior usually occurred within the first 45 min of handling. In 8 of 10 capture sessions, walruses returned to predisturbance levels of behavior within 40 min of cessation of the handling disturbance. Alertness and displacement were moderately and negatively correlated with herd size during the handling period, which may reflect an effect of a threshold distance from the point of disturbance to responding individuals. Observations of walruses tagged with VHF radio transmitters indicated that the activities from a given capture session did not preclude tagged walruses from using the haul-out over a subsequent 11-wk monitoring period. Moreover, non-tagged walruses continued to extensively use the haul-out during and after the period in which capture sessions were conducted.
Additional publication details
Response of Pacific walruses to disturbances from capture and handling activities at a haul-out in Bristol Bay, Alaska