Defending her cubs, a walrus sinks a Russian Navy boat

National News

This photo provided by the United States Geological Survey shows a female Pacific walrus resting, Sept. 19, 2013 in Point Lay, Alaska. A lawsuit making its way through federal court in Alaska will decide whether Pacific walruses should be listed as a threatened species, giving them additional protections. Walruses use sea ice for giving birth, nursing and resting between dives for food but the amount of ice over several decades has steadily declined due to climate warming. (Ryan Kingsbery/U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

(CBS News) — Humans have long known that it’s inadvisable to mess with Mother Nature. And, as a group of researchers from the Russian Geographical Society just learned, it’s also apparently inadvisable to mess with a mother walrus.

The scientists were aboard a Russian Navy tugboat known as the Altai on an expedition to the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Arctic Ocean this week right before the unusual human-animal interaction occurred. They boarded a small rubber landing craft and were en route to the shore to study its flora and fauna when a female walrus attacked, sinking the vessel.

“During the landing at Cape Heller, a group of researchers had to flee from a female walrus, which, protecting its cubs, attacked an expedition boat,” the Russian Military’s Northern Fleet said in a press release.

The Russian military appeared to be flying a drone above a group of walruses on a nearby beach to take scientific photographs, which may have spooked the animal, igniting its maternal defense instincts. A gallery posted by the Northern Fleet following the incident shows images of walruses gathered on the Franz Josef Land.

And, while the attached report makes no mention of a navy boat sinking, it does note that “serious troubles were avoided thanks to the clear and well-coordinated actions of the Northern Fleet servicemen, who were able to take the boat away from the animals without harming them.”

According to National Geographic, walruses near the Arctic Circle can weigh in at as much as 1.5 tons, reaching between 7.25 and 11.5 feet – twice the size of a human. And while these animals are not naturally aggressive, they will use their massive tusks to defend themselves from larger predators.

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