Most people understand that it is risky to mess with an animal with babies nearby. However, a group of researchers learned this lesson the hard way when a mother walrus became agitated by their presence. In an attempt to defend her cubs, the walrus attacked a Navy expedition vessel, effectively sinking it.
A group of Russian Geographical Society researchers was aboard the Altai, a Russian Navy tugboat. According to a report by CBS News, the researchers were on an expedition, heading to the Franz Josef Land archipelago, which is located in the Arctic Ocean.
The group boarded a landing craft and started making their way toward the shore. Their goal was to study the local flora and fauna, and they ended up in the middle of an encounter they weren’t anticipating.
A mother walrus ultimately attacked the boat, sinking it.
“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,” said a press release from the Russian Military’s Northern Fleet.
Before the attack, the Russian military seemed to be flying a drone above some walruses, using the device to take scientific photographs. It’s possible the drone startled the animals, causing the mother walrus’s maternal instincts to kick into high gear.
While the formal report from the Northern Fleet doesn’t specifically mention the boat that sank, it does state 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.”
Walruses from the Arctic Circle region can weigh as much as 1.5 tons and get as large as 7.25 to 11.5 feet. While walruses aren’t typically aggressive, they will defend themselves and their young against predators, relying on their massive tusks to handle the threat.