The Historical Ecology of Walrus Exploitation in the North Pacific

Erica Hill

in Human Impacts on Seals, Sea Lions, and Sea Otters

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267268
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948976 | DOI:
The Historical Ecology of Walrus Exploitation in the North Pacific

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This chapter examines the historical ecology of the Pacific walrus considering the association between human settlements and walrus migration routes along the North Pacific Coast on both sides of the Bering Strait. It also discusses how humans adapted their hunting strategies to deal with the habitat preferences of female and juvenile walruses. These observations have major implications for our understanding of how cooperative hunting developed along the coasts of the Bering and Chukchi seas. Hunting by large crews aboard umiat (large, open skin boats) is a strategy that has long been associated— exclusively—with whaling. But emerging archaeological evidence has the potential to demonstrate that North Pacific Eskimos around the Bering Strait lived and hunted in large, cooperative kin groups before whaling emerged as the preferred subsistence strategy.

Keywords: Pacific Coast; Bering Strait; ecology; Pacific walrus; hunting; whaling; human settlements; migration; habitat preferences; Eskimos

Chapter.  14074 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences

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