A massive, fish-loving walrus named Freya is stirring up trouble in Norway — and the Norwegian government has warned it may have to euthanize her if Norwegians don’t leave her alone.
The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries told CNN that it is “monitoring the situation” around Freya, observing the walrus closely with a patrol vessel. The young female walrus has been spending time at the Oslo Fjord, an inlet on the country’s southeastern coast.
But recently, “the public has disregarded the current recommendation to keep a clear distance to the walrus,” Nadia Jdaini, spokesperson for the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, told CNN in an email.
Visitors are swimming with Freya, throwing objects at her, and getting close to her to take photos — sometimes “with their children in tow,” said Jdaini.
For the directorate, this means that their warnings aren’t enough.
“We will have to look at other options than the current strategy of asking people to stay clear of the wild animal,” said Jdaini. “One of those options, as previously stated by the Directorate from the beginning of this summer, is to greenlight a controlled operation to put the animal down.”
“Other possible solutions, like moving the animal from the Oslo-fjord, is also in the ongoing discussions.”
Female walruses weigh between 600 and 900 kilograms, or around 1,300 to 2,000 pounds, said Jdaini. There are over 25,000 Atlantic walruses making their homes in the icy waters around Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The marine mammals migrate along the coast to feed on mollusks and other invertebrates in shallow waters.
Freya has become a social media sensation this summer, Rune Aae, who teaches biology at the University of South-Eastern Norway and manages a Google map of Freya sightings, told CNN. Several popular videos show the walrus clambering onto small boats to sunbathe.
“Normally, walruses will show up on some islands, but they will leave quite soon, because they’re afraid of people,” said Aae.
But Freya “is not afraid of people,” he said. “Actually, I think she likes people. So that’s why she’s not leaving.”
Aae said that the last time a walrus was documented this far south in the North Sea was 2013. “It’s not common at all,” he said — which led crowds of Norwegians flocking to see Freya.
The directorate’s plan to relocate Freya out of the fjord would be logistically challenging and dangerous, Aae said, as it would require careful timing of sedation to ensure she doesn’t drown in the water.
He said ideally, Freya will leave on her own, as she did in March after visiting the Oslo Fjord.
“Killing her is an easy way out,” said Aae. “Maybe the mood has changed in the public opinion about her. So I really hope that they try to move her, or have the patience to wait.”
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