An abandoned walrus pup that was receiving round-the-clock “cuddling” from welfare workers has died.
The unnamed Pacific walrus was found alone miles from the ocean on Alaska’s North Slope and taken to Alaska SeaLife Centre.
He was struggling with a number of health issues, such as nutrient malabsorption.
In a statement, Alaska SeaLife Center said: “While often rewarding, wildlife rescue is inherently unpredictable and comes with it the possibility of great loss.
“For those that dedicate their lives to animal care, this is the hardest part of the job.”
The day before his death, he faced other complications, such as hypoglycaemia and gastrointestinal problems.
“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 centre said.
A necropsy is planned.
The brown, wrinkly-skinned baby was believed to be about a month old.
Last week, in an effort to mimic the near-constant care a calf would get from its mother, the centre said the young walrus was receiving “round-the-clock cuddles” to keep him calm and aid his development.
They described the cuddling as trained staff giving the walrus “the option to have a warm body to lean up against, which he has been taking advantage of almost constantly”.
The range of the Pacific walrus includes the northern Bering and Chukchi seas, but the walruses are occasionally observed in areas like the Beaufort Sea to the northeast, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The calf was found about four miles inland from the Beaufort Sea, in Alaska’s extreme north, by oil field workers at the end of July.
A “walrus trail,” or track, was seen on the tundra near a road where the walrus was found. But it was unclear how, exactly, he got there, according to the centre.