How long does it take for walrus to decompose?

August 26, 2023
min read

Short answer

The decomposition time of a walrus can vary depending on various factors such as environmental conditions and size of the animal. On average, it can take anywhere from several weeks to several months for a walrus to decompose completely.


The decomposition of a walrus is a complex biological process that occurs in stages. When a walrus dies, decomposition begins almost immediately, triggered by a variety of factors such as bacterial activity, enzymes, and environmental conditions. In the first stage, known as the fresh stage, the body's cells start to break down as autolysis takes place. This process is accelerated by the release of enzymes from lysosomes, resulting in the breakdown of cellular components. Bacteria also play a crucial role during this stage, rapidly multiplying and breaking down organic matter.

Next, the bloated stage of decomposition begins as gases build up inside the carcass due to the unrestricted production of gases by the plethora of bacteria present in the body. The carcass becomes distended and may appear bloated. External signs of decomposition, such as discoloration and odor, become more prominent during this stage. The gases excreted by bacteria create pressure, causing fluids and bodily materials to be expelled from orifices. Large scavengers, like polar bears, may start to feed on the carcass during this stage.

In the last stage, known as the advanced decay stage, the carcass begins to dry out as it loses moisture through various means, including evaporation and consumption by scavengers. The remaining tissues and bones continue to break down, becoming skeletalized over time. The decomposition process slows down significantly during this stage due to the decreased availability of organic material for bacteria and other decomposers. Eventually, only the skeletal remains of the walrus are left, further decomposing through natural weathering and scavenger interactions over an extended period of time.

Is it possible to recycle walrus?

Intresting facts

  • The decomposition of a walrus starts soon after its death, as enzymes and bacteria break down the soft tissues.
  • The walrus's thick blubber layer helps slow down the decomposition process, as it acts as an insulator and helps preserve the internal organs.
  • In cold Arctic environments, the decomposition of a walrus can be further delayed due to the freezing temperatures, which inhibits bacterial growth.
  • Decomposition of a walrus carcass plays a crucial role in the ecosystem, as it provides a source of nutrients for scavengers like polar bears, wolves, and various bird species.
  • Over time, as the decomposition progresses, the bones of the walrus become more exposed and can contribute to the formation of fossil remains, offering insights into the species' evolutionary past.

Summary and final thoughts

The decomposition time of a walrus can vary depending on various factors including temperature, availability of bacteria and scavengers, and burial conditions. In general, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months for a walrus to decompose fully. The process starts with the breakdown of soft tissues by bacteria and other microorganisms, followed by the consumption of remaining flesh by scavengers such as carrion-eating birds and mammals. Eventually, only bones and other hard tissues remain, and these can take years or even decades to fully decompose. While this process is natural and a crucial part of nutrient cycling in ecosystems, the specific timeline can be influenced by environmental conditions.

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