Baby animals

Cuddle time! What it's like to snuggle with a baby walrus

Oct. 10, 2012 at 2:35 PM ET

Marc Lester / MCT via Landov /
Shawna Gallagher of the Indianapolis Zoo spends time with Pakak, one of the two orphaned walruses that was cared for by the Alaska SeaLife Center in recent months. Like most baby walruses, Pakak and Malik enjoy human affection and cuddling up.

Want a job that comes with snuggling privileges? If you’re looking after baby walruses, cuddling is all in a day’s work.

Anchorage Daily News columnist Julia O’Malley experienced a walrus snuggle firsthand when she visited two orphans being cared for at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.

“Snuggling with a baby walrus feels like being pinned under a warm, very chubby person who is wearing a damp velour jumpsuit that smells faintly, almost pleasantly, like low tide,” she wrote on Tuesday.

Marc Lester / MCT /Landov /
Dr. Carrie Goertz of the SeaLife Center examines Mitik with ultrasound equipment. The baby walruses were bottle fed throughout their stay at the center.

O’Malley assumed the 4-month-old orphans, named Pakak and Mitik, would be stand-offish during their meeting, as many wild animals are around humans. But these two were anything but aloof.

“They lumbered right over to me and photographer Marc Lester and smacked us with their velvety bowling ball heads. Then they started barking,” she wrote. “They sounded like a couple of smokers hacking into a megaphone.”

Pakak and Mitik’s need for affection isn’t unusual — infant walruses are highly social creatures that will snuggle up at every opportunity.

“They’re very social, tactile animals,” Alaska SeaLife Center President Tara Jones told the ADN in a video. “Sometimes the two animals will provide that to each other and sleep on top of each other almost, and sometimes they’ll curl up to one of their human caregivers."

Marc Lester / MCT via Landov /
Mitik leans against Robert Walton, a lab technician at the Alaska SeaLife Center. O'Malley wrote that most animal caretakers at the center think the cuddling aspect of the job is "kind of nice."

Of course, sneaking some snuggle time with a walrus isn’t without risks. Though still youngsters, Pakak and Mitik weigh 350 pounds and 250 pounds, respectively. Since they arrived at the center two and a half months ago, it’s become increasingly difficult to escape their clutches.

“The big guy was sitting on top of me. I couldn’t get up until feeding time,” Jones told the Anchorage Daily News.

The pair arrived at the center after becoming separated from their herd, but their time there has already come to a close. Pakak will arrive at his new home in the Indianapolis Zoo tomorrow, while Mitik is headed to the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn.

They've also attracted quite a bit of attention lately on YouTube, with their most popular video garnering over 150,000 views.

After all, if you can't actually cuddle with a baby walrus, watching one snuggle might be the next best thing.

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