Pacific walrus denied endangered species protection

October 5, 2017, 11:36 a.m.
A walrus parent and its offspring sit on a chunk of ice.
Photo: tryton2011/Shutterstock

Pacific walruses have been left out in the cold by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Following both a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and a decision made during the Obama administration — which concluded the walruses need more protection under the Endangered Species Act — the agency cited a lack of certainty that the walruses would become more threatened as the reason for its decision not to grant endangered species protections.

"Walrus demonstrated much more ability to change their behaviors than previously thought," Patrick Lemons, the agency's marine mammals management chief, said to CBS News.

That changing behavior? An apparent ability to adapt to decreasing amounts of sea ice, which the walruses use for a variety of purposes, including resting, giving birth and foraging for food. But Shaye Wolf, climate science director for the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), isn't convinced.

"This disgraceful decision is a death sentence for the walrus. Walruses face extinction from climate change, and denying them critical protections will push them closer to the edge," Wolf said in a statement released by the CBD.

The Pacific walrus wasn't the only creature denied endangered species protections. Another 24 species were passed over for protections by the Fish and Wildlife Service, including the Big Blue Springs cave crayfish, the Great Sand Dunes tiger beetle, the San Felipe gambusia, and the Oregon Cascades-California and Black Hills populations of black-backed woodpecker.

Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the CBD, told USA Today the organization intends to fight the rulings.

"We're going to challenge as many of these bogus findings as we can," he said.