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Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan

Atlantic Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus)

Atlantic Walrus
© Parks Canada / Dorothea Kappler, 1995

Excellent swimmers, walrus can travel up to 20 km/hr, dive to 100 m and can remain submerged up to half an hour. Their tusks are used in social displays, as weapons against killer whales and polar bears and even as grappling hooks to help them haul out onto the ice. They feed primarily on clams, using their sensitive bristles to locate them on the seabed and can eat several thousand a day. Their scientific name means 'tooth walking sea-horse'. In Canada, walrus are now found only in the Eastern and High Arctic, although the occasional Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) may wander into the Western Canadian Arctic from Alaska. Though walrus were once abundant in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the northwestern Atlantic, they were hunted out by the mid-19th century.

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