Walruses are gathering by the thousands near a remote Alaskan village. Here's why.

Thousands of Pacific walruses are storming the shore of a barrier island off Alaska.

They're not gathering for a party, a flash mob, or a SeaWorld audition (thank god). They're just kinda ... stuck. For now, anyway. One walrus spoke with us:


A natural part of pinniped (walruses, seals, and sea lions) life is a behavior known as "hauling out." That's when they hop out of the water onto ice or land for rest, mating, or birth; to avoid being devoured by predators; or even just to hang out.

Image by the U.S. Geological Survey.

But these enormous land haul-outs are a new phenomenon that started only in the last decade.

Right now, there are an estimated 5,000-6,000 walruses on shore near Point Lay, a largely Native village in northwestern Alaska. We have yet to see if the situation reaches the scale of last year's haul-out, when more than 35,000 walruses piled onto a nearby shore.

"What we have here, folks, is what scientists call a 'sh*t ton' of walruses."

Why are so many walruses hauling out to land, and why is it a problem?

The changing climate is melting the ice sheets that the walruses would otherwise be chillin' on during the summer months.

Here's how walruses live: wake up, swim, scour the ocean floor for food, rest, and repeat. They also mate and have babies and stuff in between, but that's about it.

Image by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Walruses like shallow water because they can't swim for long, and shallow waters mean shorter trips at mealtime. According to researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey (video below), that's exactly what draws them to this part of the ocean:

"Most of the world's ocean is 10,000 feet deep. Beneath the Chuchki Sea is an immense continental shelf that is only 150 feet deep. This vast shallow sea is extremely rich in the clams and worms so vital to the walrus."

But rising temperatures are causing their summer homes to retreat into the deeper waters of the north earlier in the year, leading to these massive haul-outs.

Unfortunately for walruses, life on land ain't easy.

They have to swim farther and/or deeper for food. Their huge numbers can drain food supplies more quickly, cause turf battles, and increase the chances of disease outbreaks.

Haul-outs of this size also put walruses at constant threat of human disturbance. Ships, planes, and even jerks with cameras can trigger stampedes that put calves at risk of injury or death.

Public domain photo by Joel Garlich Miller/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Officials have released a statement instructing media, tourists, and even locals to maintain their distance from the thousands of walruses crowding the shores. Our spokeswalrus agrees:

Walruses aren't the only ones who are worried about what's happening.

The walrus is an important part of native Alaskans' culture. They count on the walrus for food, clothing, boat building, tools, art, and a lot more. But rapid ice melt in the region, says the USGS, could create even more barriers to recovery:

"This longer season of open water has created the potential for greater human presence. Now, there is more opportunity for trans-ocean shipping, fishing, offshore oil and gas development, and tourism. Walrus and their calves must now contend with increased human presence, just as the security of their summer sea ice disappears."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service thinks the walrus should be classified as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. But a decision won't be made until 2017, once researchers have done their digging. Hopefully, they won't be too late.

To learn more, check out this video by the U.S. Geological Survey:

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The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


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Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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