Nfld. & Labrador

Walrus makes a rare appearance on N.L. beach — and draws a crowd

An errant walrus on the Avalon Peninsula drew a lot of attention over the weekend, though wildlife officials are asking people to give the animal its space.

DFO officers asking people to keep their distance from walrus

'Seeing a walrus in person, seeing the enormity of the creature and the skin texture and its tusks, it's amazing,' says photographer Alick Tsui. (Submitted by Alick Tsui)

An errant walrus on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula is drawing a lot of attention, though wildlife officials are asking people to give the animal its space.

Middle Cove Beach in the town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove is a popular spot in the region, particularly in June or July for the annual capelin roll, as locals collect the fish after they spawn.

But this weekend's visitor was somewhat bigger than a capelin. 

An Atlantic walrus, possibly a juvenile animal due to its medium size and smaller tusks, was spotted sunning itself on the beach Saturday. 

One person who saw the walrus Saturday was photographer Alick Tsui, who had been hiking in Logy Bay when he got a notification through social media that the walrus had arrived. 

"Seeing a walrus in person, seeing the enormity of the creature and the skin texture and its tusks, it's amazing. And I don't have to go anywhere to Russia or Alaska to see a walrus — it's right here in our backyard in Newfoundland," he said.

Tsui says the walrus was just relaxing on Middle Cove Beach. (Submitted by Alick Tsui)

Tsui said the sight had already attracted a crowd when he arrived at the beach late Saturday afternoon, but people seemed to be keeping their distance.

"You have to stay a safe distance out of harm's way because a walrus is a wild animal," Tsui said, "so you never know how a wild animal can respond to human intimidation. So I think we were behaving really well."

Fisheries officers ask viewers to keep distance

While not unheard of, a walrus this far south is rare.

On Sunday, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans posted a light-hearted tweet, asking people to let him enjoy his nap.

Crowds of people continued to flock to the beach for a view of the animal, prompting the department to place a pair of officers on guard and ask the crowd to keep a safe distance.

By Sunday afternoon, the walrus had attracted quite a crowd of onlookers, but most kept their distance. (Andrew Hawthorn/CBC)

In an email to CBC News on Sunday, DFO said fisheries officers were on the beach to protect both the walrus and people, and the officers would  ensure the walrus has clear access to the water. DFO research scientists have also visited the beach.

The department said it's not unusual for walruses to snooze and bask in the sun, but while frequently docile, they can be dangerous and can move on land as fast as a running human being. 

"We understand that people are excited to see this walrus. It is a rare occurrence here, but people should stay well back from the walrus and frankly, just leave it alone," a DFO spokesperson said.

The department said marine mammals are subject to the provisions of regulations under the Fisheries Act, which requires people to stay a minimum of 100 metres away from a walrus.

But as of Sunday afternoon, the walrus appeared interested only in sand and sun. Tsui said the walrus seemed to be enjoying itself.

"A lot of people were thinking that the walrus was in distress. Apparently he was checked and seems to be in good shape and just trying to get a lazy day on the beach for Newfoundlanders to observe."

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Andrew Hawthorn


Andrew Hawthorn is a writer and reporter working with the CBC in St. John's.