SEWARD - Two walrus calves brought to the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward three weeks ago are on the mend.
The first calf found orphaned off the coast of Barrow is 10 to 12 weeks old and is in stable condition in the "I.Sea.U."
“He's very playful, he follows us all around. Today he's been pretty sleepy and laying around but he still doesn't want us to leave. He wants someone with him all the time,” said volunteer Julie McCarthy, who made a special trip to Seward from her home in Ohio.
Two staff members or volunteers are with the calf 24-hours a day. He requires care like an infant, feeding from a bottle every four hours and has to take regular naps.
“Walrus calves are very dependent on their mothers for up to two years, so when they're orphaned and come into human care it takes a lot of specialized attention to make sure they get everything they need,” said Brett Long, the SeaLife Center’s Husbandry Director.
The other walrus is still in critical condition. Staff said he was likely separated from his mother for a longer period of time. Even after three weeks he still won’t take a bottle.
“Every four hours we have to tube feed it. So you insert a tube gently down into its stomach and give it formula that way. So it takes extra people and regardless of how slow you go and how soft the tube is that's something you still have to handle the animal for and get it used to doing,” said Long.
The new additions also mean interns are getting some unexpected hands-on experience.
“I thought I'd mostly be working with the harbor seals and stellar sea lions. But I never expected I'd get to work with a walrus. It definitely makes my summer for sure,” said intern Virginia Chandler.
Everyone agrees the round-the-clock care is worth it to see the animals growing healthier each day. “They came in here with nothing and now these guys are going to thrive and be ambassadors for their species. It’s pretty amazing,” said Chandler.
The walruses will be at the SeaLife Center for at least two or three more weeks. The Department of Fish and Wildlife will determine where the calves end up.