Planes Rerouted to Prevent Walrus Stampede

FAA warns media, gawkers to stay away, not spook beached animals
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 2, 2014 10:08 AM CDT
In this aerial photo taken on Sept. 27, 2014, and provided by NOAA, some 35,000 walruses gather on the shore near Point Lay, Alaska.   (AP Photo/NOAA, Corey Accardo)

(Newser) – Aircraft, media, and curious folks in general have been instructed to stay far away from the 35,000 walruses crammed onto an Alaskan beach to prevent the easily spooked animals from stampeding each other to death, the Guardian reports. "When they lose their sea ice habitat and come ashore ... they gather in large numbers, and it becomes like a giant pig pile," a managing director for the World Wildlife Fund says. "When they are disturbed, it can cause stampedes in large numbers."

The FAA has rerouted US flights, asking planes to stay above 2,000 feet and more than half a mile away from the strip near Point Lay; even-noisier helicopters have been told to fly at altitudes of at least 3,000 feet and at a mile's distance. Most at risk for being trampled to death: calves, which make up a good portion of the walrus population in the Chukchi Sea currently, the Guardian notes. (Read more walruses stories.)

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