The Alaska SeaLife Center is mourning the loss of a rare walrus calf it rescued two weeks ago.
"We are heartbroken to share that the walrus calf admitted to the ASLC Wildlife Response Program on August 1, 2023, passed away this morning after his condition took a turn for the worse," the ASLC said in a statement.
Because walrus calves are so reliant on maternal care for their first two years of life, the calf — estimated to be about 1 month old when it was brought in — was prescribed 24-hour cuddle care to mimic the near-constant attention that would be provided by its mom.
But the ASLC said the calf had been dealing with a number of issues.
"Since his arrival, he had been struggling with a number of serious health concerns on top of nutrient malabsorption, which can make treatment difficult to stay ahead of," the ASLC said.
In the 24 hours leading up to his passing, the calf was struggling with multiple complications, including hypoglycemia and gastrointestinal problems.
The calf was discovered by workers on Alaska's North Slope, a few miles inland from the Beaufort Sea. The center said this was "highly unusual," as walruses reside almost exclusively in the ocean or near the western coastline.
No adult walruses were found in the vicinity, so the calf was rescued, as it had little chance of survival without intervention.
"Though our animal care teams worked tirelessly to provide round-the-clock critical care treatments, never leaving his side, the calf ultimately succumbed to his condition," the ASLC said.
The calf was a rarity at the center, being one of the first walrus patients in four years. The ASLC said while animal rescue is rewarding, the loss of life is the hardest part of the job.
To better understand the cause of death, a necropsy will be conducted in the coming days.
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