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COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Atlantic Walrus in Canada

Distribution

Global Range

The walrus has a discontinuous circumpolar Arctic and sub-Arctic distribution with distinct Atlantic and Pacific subspecies (Reeves 1978; Brenton 1979; Fay 1981, 1985; Cronin et al. 1994). A connection between the Atlantic walruses of east Greenland and the Pacific walrus has not been demonstrated, although Andersen et al. (1998) inferred from the presence of a Pacific haplotype in an east Greenland walrus that one may exist. Atlantic walruses range from the central Canadian Arctic in the west to the Kara Sea in the east, north to Svalbard and south to Nova Scotia (Figure 2). There are two well separated populations within this range, one to the east of Greenland and the other to the west. 


Canadian Range

In Canada, the Atlantic walrus ranges from Bathurst and Prince of Wales islands eastward to Davis Strait and from James Bay north to Kane Basin (Figures 3 and 4). There are records of walruses in the Canadian Arctic west of this area (Harrington 1966; Stewart and Burt 1994). Those north and east of Victoria Island have tentatively been considered Atlantic walruses on the basis of limited taxonomic information; those to the south and west as Pacific walruses. Walruses are rare south of the Hebron–Okak Bay (57°28'N, 62°20' W) area of the Labrador coast (Mercer 1967; Born et al. 1995) but a few have been sighted south to Nova Scotia over the past decade (Kingsley 1998; Camus 2003; Richer 2003).


Figure 2: Approximate Distribution of: 1) Atlantic Walruses, 2) Pacific Walruses, and 3) Laptev Walruses (Taxonomic Status Uncertain)

Approximate distribution of: 1) Atlantic walruses

Adapted from Born et al. 1995.