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U.S. to Walrus: You're on Your Own

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The Pacific walrus, although needing protection from climate change, will have to take care of itself for now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department said on Tuesday.

Although the walrus does actually face environmental threats, the Associated Press reported, there are simply too many other animals ahead of it in line. The government classified it as "warranted but precluded," which means that although it deserves to be on the list, it hasn't quite made it.

"The threats to the walrus are very real, as evidenced by this 'warranted' finding," said Geoff Haskett, the service's Alaska region director, in a statement. "But its greater population numbers and ability to adapt to land-based haulouts make its immediate situation less dire than those facing other species such as the polar bear."

Thus it will instead be added to the “warranted but precluded” list, agency spokesman Bruce Wood told the AP. This designation exists under the Endangered Species Act as a sort of waiting list. The Center for Biological Diversity said there are currently more than 250 species on that list, “including many that have been languishing for two decades or more.”

Haskett added that Alaska Native groups and other partners could help mitigate climate change impact over time for this animal and keep it off the endangered list. But the Center for Biological Diversity, which first petitioned for endangered or threatened status for the walrus in 2008, lashed out against the decision.

“The Obama administration has acknowledged that the walrus is facing extinction due to climate change, yet is withholding the very protections that can help save it,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center, in a statement. “It’s like having a doctor declare that you are in critical condition, but then just leaving you unattended in the hospital’s waiting room.”

The Pacific walrus lives off Alaska and is threatened by loss of the sea ice it needs in order to give birth, nurse and parent, the Center for Biological Diversity said.

The Pacific walrus, which lives in the Arctic waters off Alaska, is threatened by the loss of the sea ice it needs for giving birth, nursing young and resting, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Female walruses and calves follow this ice all year, and without it, the young are more vulnerable to predators.