National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2014

The influence of wind and ice on spring walrus hunting success on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska

Huntington, H.P., G. Noongwook, N.A. Bond, B. Benter, J.A. Snyder, and J. Zhang

Deep-Sea Res. II, 94, 312–322, doi: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2013.03.016 (2013)

St. Lawrence Island Yupik hunters on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, take hundreds of Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) each year. The harvest and associated effort (hunting trips taken), however, are variable from year to year and also from day to day, influenced by physical environmental factors among other variables. We used data from 1996 to 2010 to construct generalized additive models (GAMs) to examine several relationships among the variables. Physical factors explained 18% of the variability in harvest in Savoonga and 25% of the variability in effort; the corresponding figures for Gambell were 24% and 32%. Effort alone explained 63% of the harvest in Savoonga and 59% in Gambell. Physical factors played a relatively smaller role in determining hunting efficiency (walrus taken per hunting trip), explaining 15% of the variability in efficiency in Savoonga and 22% in Gambell, suggesting that physical factors play a larger role in determining whether to hunt than in the outcome of the hunt once undertaken. Combining physical factors with effort explained 70% of the harvest variability in Savoonga and 66% in Gambell. Although these results indicate that other factors (e.g. fuel prices, socioeconomic conditions) collectively cause a greater share of variability in harvest and effort than ice and wind, at least as indicated by the measures used as predictors in the GAMs, they also suggest that environmental change is also likely to influence future harvest levels, and that climate models that yield appropriately scaled data on ice and wind around St. Lawrence Island may be of use in determining the magnitude and direction of those influences.

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