The first full week of December every year is Walrus Awareness Week. In recognition of the holiday and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s two walruses, Balzak (pronounced bell’-zik) and Lakina, here are 10 Wonderful Walrus Facts.
10 Walrus Facts
- Walruses are found in the icy Arctic waters. They prefer to haul out on polar ice but use small rocky islands when ice isn’t available.
- Walruses love company. In the wild, they huddle together onshore in the hundreds, piled up like giant puppies.
- Walruses eat clams, using their stiff whiskers to feel around the ocean floor for tasty ones. They’ll also eat other seafood. Their main predators are orcas, polar bears, and humans.
- From December to March, the males (bulls) compete for a harem of females (cows). Male courtship often includes piercing whistles.
- Cows usually have one baby every three years after a 15-16-month pregnancy. Newborns stay with their mom for at least two years.
- Walruses are huge. Between 7-12 feet long, the males can weigh up to 5,000 pounds, with females topping at 2,700. Balzak currently weighs 2,036 pounds, and Lakina weighs 1,157 pounds.
- In water, walruses become pale as their blood vessels contract to protect them against icy cold. On land, they turn pink as the blood vessels dilate, allowing heat to escape.
- Walruses grow long tusks, which help them adapt to Arctic life. They use their tusks like ski poles, digging into snow and ice to help them move around. Their tusks also smash through ice to create breathing holes while swimming underwater.
- Walruses can withstand freezing temperatures as low as -95°F.
- Walruses have air sacs known as “pharyngeal pouches” on their throats that can hold up to 13 gallons of air and inflate like pillows. Once their pouches fill up, they can doze off in the water, sleeping vertically and keeping safe from drowning.
Balzak and Lakina, born just weeks apart, are 7 years old and have been together their entire lives. Lakina is more inquisitive, while Balzak is more reserved and patient, and they are both quick learners.
Meet Balzak and Lakina at Rocky Shores every day we’re open and chat with their keepers at the Marine Mammal Keeper Chat (12:30 p.m.).