Stampede suspected in dozens of walrus deaths in Alaska

Hundreds of walruses on the beach at Round Island, Alaska.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says 64 walruses died on a northwest Alaska beach, and the animals may have been killed in stampedes.

The agency told The Associated Press that the mostly young walruses were counted Monday near the village of Point Lay on the Chukchi (chuk-CHEE) Sea.

The cause of the deaths hasn’t been determined, but young walruses are vulnerable to being crushed if something startles a herd and sends animals rushing to the ocean.

A polar bear, hunter, airplane or boat can cause a stampede. Residents of Point Lay, who hunt walrus for food, expressed concern after seeing an airplane flying near the herd and possibly circling.

Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Andrea Medeiros says 30,000 to 40,000 walruses have been counted near Point Lay as they came ashore in late summer.