A giant walrus named Freya is causing trouble in Norway – and the Norwegian government has warned she may have to be euthanized if Norwegians don’t leave her alone.
Norway’s fisheries directorate told CNN it is “monitoring the situation” around Freya, with a patrol vessel keeping a close eye on the walrus. A young female walrus spends time in the Oslo Fjord on the country’s southeast coast.
But recently, “the public has ignored the current recommendation to keep a clear distance from walruses,” Norwegian Fisheries Directorate spokeswoman Nadia Jataini said in an email to CNN.
Visitors swim with Freya, throw things at her and approach her to take photos — sometimes “with their kids,” Jdaini said.
For the board, that meant their warnings weren’t enough.
“We need to look at other options apart from the current strategy of asking people to stay away from wild animals,” Jataini said. “One of those options, as the board has previously said, is to give the green light to a control measure for the slaughter of animals, beginning this summer.”
“Other possible solutions, such as removing the animal from the Oslo fjord, are also under ongoing discussions.”
Female walruses weigh between 600 and 900 kilograms, Jataini said. According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than 25,000 Atlantic walruses make their homes in the cold waters around Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia. Marine mammals migrate inshore to feed on molluscs and other invertebrates in shallow water.
Freya became a social media sensation this summer, Roon Aye, who teaches biology at the University of Southeastern Norway and manages a map of Freya sightings, told CNN. Several popular videos show walruses boarding small boats in the sun.
“Walruses usually appear on some islands, but they quickly leave because they are afraid of people,” A said.
But Freya “isn’t afraid of people,” he said. “Actually, I think she likes people. That’s why she didn’t leave.”
Aae said the walrus was documented as far south as the North Sea in 2013. “It’s not common,” he said – prompting a crowd of Norwegians to see Freya.
A said the board’s plan to get Freya out of the fjord would be logistically challenging and risky, as it would require careful censoring time to ensure she didn’t drown.
He said Freya will go out alone after visiting Oslo Fjord in March.
“Killing her is an easy way,” said A. “Perhaps the mood has changed in public opinion of you. So I believe they will either try to move it or wait patiently.”