Species Profile

Atlantic Walrus Northwest Atlantic population

Scientific Name: Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
COSEWIC Range: Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Atlantic Ocean
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: April 2006
COSEWIC Status: Non-active
COSEWIC Status Criteria:
COSEWIC Reason for Designation:
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: The Atlantic Walrus in Canada was originally treated by COSEWIC as two separate populations: Eastern Arctic population (Not at Risk in April 1987 and May 2000) and Northwest Atlantic population (Extirpated in April 1987 and May 2000). In April 2006, COSEWIC included the extirpated portion of the Atlantic Walrus as part of a single designatable unit for Atlantic Walrus in Canada. The original designation was de-activated.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Extirpated
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents


The Atlantic Walrus is a large, marine mammal with front and hind limbs developed into flippers. It is easily identified by its long canines or tusks, which are longer and bigger on the males than on the females. The skin of the Walrus is dark brown and it is covered by a thin layer of small sparse brown hairs; at birth, this thin layer of hair is silver gray but it quickly turns brown. The males have a large and muscled neck which is formed by a very thick skin. Adult males measure about 3.1 m in length and weigh about 900 kg; females measure approximately 2.6 m and weigh, on average, 560 kg. A newborn Walrus measures about 1.2 m and weighs about 55 kg.


Atlantic Walrus Photo 4


Distribution and Population

There are no estimates available on the number of Walrus in Canada. Although the species has been extirpated from the Northwest Atlantic, the Mackenzie delta and the St. Lawrence River, Walrus are found in Arctic waters from the polar ice-sheet in the Arctic Ocean to the Bering Sea, James Bay and the Labrador coast.



Walruses inhabit areas of Arctic water where there are ice floes drifting on the shallow waters above the continental shelf. These waters are less than 80 to 100 m deep, and contain benthic invertebrates, the main food of the Walrus. During the winter, Walruses live in areas where water does not freeze, such as polynyas. They prefer living on ice, but during the summer, when ice is rare, they will live on coasts and beaches.



Walruses reach sexual maturity at 6 or 7 years of age. They move onto land or ice to give birth. Females give birth to one young, every three years, during the months of May and June. There is no information available to determine if Walruses migrate or if they form sedentary groups. Walruses depend primarily on molluscs for food, which they dig up from the shallow ocean floor.


Hunting was the main cause of the extirpation of Walruses from the Northwest Atlantic. It is possible that toxic substances build up in their organs, and that oil spills are also detrimental to this species, but the extent of the negative effects is not known. Walruses are very sensitive to other human caused environmental disturbances, such as boats and low-flying airplanes, which cause them to flee. The sudden, hurried movement of a group of Walruses sometimes causes death to animals in the middle of the group. When they are under water, the noise made by boats is very disturbing and probably prevents the Walruses from communicating. Reductions in their food source can also have negative impacts on Walrus populations.



Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name National Recovery Strategy for the Atlantic Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) Northwest Atlantic population
Status Not yet initiated



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

2 record(s) found.

Recovery Strategies

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report 2016 to 2017 (2017-10-24)

    Over the past year COSEWIC re-examined the status of 40 wildlife species; of these, the majority (78 %) were reassessed at the same or lower level of risk. Of a total of 73 species assessed 11 were assigned the status of Not at Risk (8 re-assessments and 3 new assessments). To date and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 735 wildlife species in various risk categories including 321 Endangered, 172 Threatened, 219 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated (i.e. - no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition 16 species have been assessed as Extinct, 58 have been designated as Data Deficient and 186 were assessed and assigned Not at Risk status.
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