Norway has warned it may have to kill a walrus named Freya over concerns the 1,300-pound animal could harm the delighted onlookers who couldn’t stay away from her during her summer visit to the country’s coast.
People have swam close to Freya, thrown objects at her and posed for photos, sometimes with their children, Vegard Oen Hatten, a spokesman for Norway’s Directorate of Fisheries, told DailyExpertNews on Friday. The agency has warned people to stay away from the walrus, but if that doesn’t work, “there is an opportunity to green-light a controlled operation to kill the animal,” said Mr. hating.
There are other possible solutions, including moving Freya out of the area, he added, noting that killing Freya would be a “last resort.” No final decision has been made.
“She’s not aggressive,” said Rune Aae, who teaches biology at the University of Southeast Norway and regularly updates a Google map of Freya sightings. “But if she wants to play with you, you lose, no matter what.”
There doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason for Freya to leave. She has enough food in the form of scallops and mussels, and she is too young, 5 years old, to give birth to a calf, Mr. Aae said. Female walruses generally give birth around 9 or 10, and the animals can live to be around 40.
“She’s having a great time on her vacation down here,” Mr. Aae said.
Walruses are social animals and rarely venture anywhere alone, which may be why Freya likes to be around people.
“She’s not afraid of us,” Mr. Aae said. “Maybe she thinks we’re her flock.”
Freya has been spotted off the coasts of Great Britain and several European countries, including the Netherlands and Denmark, for at least two years.
“This is a unique situation,” said Mr Hatten’s spokesman. “It’s the first time an animal has been out of its natural habitat for so long.”
Experts think Freya is headed north, where she belongs. But finding her way can be difficult, as the Oslofjord, where she was last seen, is a dead end to the north. To get home, she must first go back south, to Denmark to cross over to Great Britain, before going back north.
“She has to turn around and so far she hasn’t,” said Mr. Aae. “She doesn’t have a map, she doesn’t know it’s a dead end.”
It’s not entirely uncommon for a walrus to show up in Northern Europe, and similar incidents have happened before. Most years, at least one walrus can be spotted in European waters, said Dan Jarvis, director of welfare and conservation at British Divers Marine Life Rescue.
Last year, another walrus, Wally, appeared about six weeks off the coast of southwest England and climbed boats in a crowded area of the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago of more than 150 islands. Local officials provided him with a floating dock to lay on, as he destroyed the boats weighing about 1760 pounds. There, too, people got too close and had their picture taken with him, creating potentially dangerous situations and leading to calls for his removal.
“He came to the busiest place possible,” Mr Jarvis said.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, about 225,000 walruses live in the wild. They live in ice-covered waters in Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and Alaska. In their usual habitat, walruses drag themselves on ice shelves. In Freya’s case, she hoists herself on piers and boats. Walruses are suffering from climate change in the form of melting ice sheets, causing them to lose some of that habitat.
If that continues to happen, Mr Jarvis said, “they will have to look further to find a suitable spot.”