An arctic walrus was recently spotted on Ireland’s southern island of Valentia, and marine biologists are suggesting the blubbery creature likely floated there after falling asleep on an iceberg.
“I’d say what happened is he fell asleep on an iceberg and drifted off and then he was gone too far, out into the mid-Atlantic or somewhere like that down off Greenland possibly,” said Kevin Flannery, director of the Oceanworld Aquarium in Dingle, Ireland (via Newsweek). “That is usually what happens. ... They fall asleep on an iceberg and get carried off from the Arctic.”
Live Science reports that most walruses live near the Arctic Circle, hunting for shellfish and resting on beaches and icebergs. According to the site, the tusked creatures hardly ever appear along the Irish shoreline.
People reports that a 5-year-old girl named Muireann first spotted the walrus while she was out on a walk with her father, Alan Houlihan. When the young girl laid eyes on the creature, she pointed it out to her dad.
“I thought it was a seal at first, and then we saw the tusks,” Houlihan said (via Live Science) “He kind of jumped up on the rocks. He was massive. He was about the size of a bull or a cow, pretty similar in size; he’s big, big.”
Live Science reports that the first walrus sighting ever recorded in Ireland took place in 1897, but no other sightings were reported until almost a century later. Since the 1980s, fewer than two dozen walruses have been spotted in the country.
According to the site, the walrus on Valentia Island is believed to be a young adult based on the length of its tusks. Fully matured walruses have tusks that grow up to 3.3 feet, and the Valentia Island walrus has tusks are estimated to be about 1 foot long.
A walrus was spotted ashore at Knightstown, Valentia Island, Co. Kerry today. This Artctic species is an infrequent visitor to Irish waters, with 11 records in our database, dating back to 1897. #ExploreYourShoreIRL at https://t.co/kRStl5Mk06 pic.twitter.com/xseQaZUC3a— Biodiversity Ireland (@BioDataCentre) March 14, 2021
“Hopefully he’ll get a few scallops around Valentia,” Flannney said (via Travel + Leisure), “but at this point, he wants to rest. ... If he regains his strength, hopefully he’ll make his way back up (north).”
People reports on March 15 Houlihan returned to the location where he and his daughter first saw the walrus to see if it was still around, but he was unable to spot the animal.