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Rescued walrus calf who was cuddled as part of his care in Alaska dies

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A walrus calf found on its own miles from the ocean on Alaska’s North Slope last week and given hugs as part of its care after being rescued died on Friday.

“While often rewarding, rescuing wildlife is inherently unpredictable and carries the possibility of great loss. For those who dedicate their lives to animal care, this is the hardest part of the job,” it says. Alaska SeaLife Center, the nonprofit research facility and public aquarium that took care of him, said in an online statement.

The Pacific walrus calf, which was taken into the center on Aug. 1 after being found by oilfield workers a day earlier, had been battling a number of health issues, including malabsorption of nutrients. On the day before his death, he faced other complications, such as hypoglycemia and gastrointestinal problems, the center said.

“Although our animal care teams worked tirelessly to provide critical care treatments 24 hours a day and never left his side, the calf eventually succumbed to its condition,” the center said. An autopsy is scheduled.

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The brown baby with the wrinkly skin would be about a month old. The center said last week that in an effort to mimic the near-constant care a calf receives from its mother, the walrus was “cuddled” around the clock to keep it calm and help it develop. The center described the cuddling as trained staff that gave the walrus “the option of having a warm body to lean against, which he took advantage of almost constantly.”

The Pacific walrus’ range includes the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas, but the walrus are occasionally sighted in areas such as the Beaufort Sea in the northeast, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The calf was found about 4 miles inland from the Beaufort Sea, in the far north of Alaska. A “walrus track” or trail was seen on the tundra near a road where the walrus was found. But it was unclear exactly how he got there, the center said.

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