Walruses on the beach. Photo Svalbard Museum

The walrus is the largest seal in our waters. Adult males can be over 3m in length and weigh nearly 2 tonnes. The females are considerably smaller. They weigh at most half that of the males. Both sexes are equipped with two tusks. In the males these can be over a meter in length and weigh 5 kg.

Walruses are very social animals. They lie close to and occasionally on top of each other in larger or smaller groups when resting on land or ice. There are two types of groups. One of exclusively males and one a mixed herd of females, pups and males. Walrus can dive down to a depth of 400m and hold their breath for over 40 minutes. Most of the diving takes place in the shallower waters where the walrus finds the largest part of its food. Walruses mostly feed on mussels, which they find with their sensitive whiskers. They suck out the soft parts of the mussels and spit out the shell before they swallow. Walrus also eat snails, crabs, fish and ringed seal. Female walrus have their first pup at around 10 years of age. The young remain with the mother for 2-3 years so that there is 3 years between births. The males become sexually mature at a similar age to the females. There is fierce competition for females. Thus, the young males do not take part in the mating before they reach 15 years of age. Walrus can live to the age of 40 years.

By Kit Kovacs/Christian Lydersen