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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says Pacific walruses have begun coming ashore along Alaska’s northwest coast, and it’s likely because sea ice in the Arctic Ocean already has receded beyond the outer continental shelf.

Walruses by the thousands in recent years have come ashore in early fall.

The agency says several hundred walruses were spotted in early August on a barrier island near the village of Point Lay.

Walrus dive hundreds of feet to eat clams on the ocean bottom. The preferred habitat for females with calves is sea ice, which gives calves a safe resting place while their mothers dive.

Sea ice beyond the outer continental shelf is over water more than 10,000 feet (3,050 meters), far too deep for walruses to reach the ocean bottom.