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Environmental Group Sues Trump Administration Over Walruses

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regularly considers adding animals that are considered to be especially vulnerable to extinction to the endangered species list, and many ecologists are upset that 25 American creatures, particularly the Pacific walrus, didn’t make the cut this year.

According to the USFWS, giving these animals the additional protections of being an endangered species “is not warranted at this time.” The USFWS explained its decision regarding the stability of the walrus population in a press release:

While walruses use sea ice for a variety of activities, including breeding, birthing, resting, and avoiding predators, they have shown an ability to adapt to sea ice loss that was not foreseen when the Service last assessed the species in 2011. Our decision not to list the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act at this time is based on a rigorous evaluation of the best available science, which indicates the population appears stable, and the species has demonstrated an ability to adapt to changing conditions. If future circumstances warrant or new information comes to light, we can and will re-evaluate the Pacific walrus for ESA protection.

There are actually two subspecies of walrus. The Atlantic walrus is found throughout the shorelines of Greenland and northeastern Canada, and the Pacific walrus resides in the icy waters along Alaska and Russia. Walruses can weigh up to 1.5 tons, are protected from the frigid cold of the Arctic region with a thick layer of blubber, and survive on a diverse carnivorous diet of clams, shrimp, crabs, sea cucumbers, and other marine invertebrates. A walrus uses its famous ivory tusks as ice hooks to pull itself out of the water, and as defensive tools against the mammoth marine mammal’s only two natural predators: polar bears and killer whales.

America’s walruses are already protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits the harvest, import, and export of the Pacific walrus or walrus products, although there are special exceptions for Alaska natives, who are allowed to hunt walruses for food and carve items from their tusks. They were pushed to be placed on the endangered species list during the Obama administration, but other threatened animals were of higher priority at the time, and walruses were placed on a list for future consideration. Regardless of the scientific findings of how the walrus population is both adaptable and beginning to stabilize, environmentalists are furious with this decision.

For instance, Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, has strong feelings about the future of our native walruses: