Walrus Movements in Smith Sound: A Canada–Greenland Shared Stock + Supplementary Appendix 1 (See Article Tools)
Keywords:Canadian High Arctic, haulout, North Water polynya, Northwest Greenland, satellite tracking, seasonal migration, shared stock
Fifty of 58 walruses (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) instrumented with satellite-linked transmitters in four areas in eastern Smith Sound, Northwest Greenland, during May and June of 2010 – 13 and 2015 provided data for this study. These animals departed from the feeding banks along the Greenland coast in June – July (average 14th June), simultaneously with the disappearance of sea ice from these areas. Most of them moved to Canadian waters in western Smith Sound. The most frequently used summering grounds were along the coasts of Ellesmere Island: on the eastern coast, the area around Alexandra Fiord, Buchanan Bay, and Flagler Bay (west of Kane Basin) and Talbot Inlet farther south, and on the southern coast, Craig Harbour. This distribution of tagged walruses is consistent with prior understanding of walrus movements in summer. In addition, however, nine tracks of these tagged animals entered western Jones Sound and four entered the Penny Strait-Lancaster Sound area, crossing two putative stock boundaries. Since these 13 tracks were made by 12 animals, one walrus entered both areas. It is possible that some of the tracked walruses used terrestrial haul-out sites in the largely ice-free areas of Jones Sound and Lancaster Sound for short periods during the summer, though this cannot be confirmed with certainty. The return migration from western Smith Sound to the wintering area in eastern Smith Sound takes place in October. The tracked walrus showed high affinity to coastal areas, while walruses moving between Greenland and Canada also used offshore areas in Smith Sound. This study demonstrates that the walrus population that winters along the northwestern coast of Greenland is shared more widely in Canada than previously thought and should be managed accordingly.