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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mating Behaviors Exhibited by a Captive Male Pacific Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens)


The population of the Pacific walrus ( Odobenus rosmarus divergens ) is currently a topic of conservation efforts. Understanding the mating behaviors of a species can be utilized in conservation efforts to preserve the species. Little is known about the behavioral repertoire of Pacific walruses, due to their isolated Arctic habitats, with limited studies previously describing observations of walrus mating behaviors. The aim of the present case study was to observe the mating behaviors of a single captive male Pacific walrus to examine overall frequency of specific mating behaviors in both social and solitary contexts. The subjects, one male and two females, were recorded at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom from November 2013 through January 2014. Only behaviors exhibited by the male walrus directly associated with mating were noted. Grabs were the most frequently observed behavior, and holds were not significantly observed which could contribute to the infrequent successful copulation attempts. Pharyngeal sac inflation, a vocal and visual behavior, was not frequently observed in a sexual context but has been observed in mating contexts in the wild. The male walrus used other sexual outlets such as self-gratification and toy use; however, these behaviors occurred significantly less than sexual encounters with females. There appeared to be a mate preference for the female with tusks, as the male interacted significantly more with the tusked female compared to the non-tusked female who was in estrus. Studying mating behavior in controlled settings such as this can be revealing of the capabilities of the species as a whole. Understanding more about how walruses interact in their environment can be used for future management and breeding strategies.

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