Officials Euthanize 1,500-Pound Sunbathing Walrus Wreaking Havoc on Norwegian Boats

Clare Fitzgerald
Photo Credit: TOR ERIK SCHRDER / NTB / AFP / Getty Images

UPDATE – 08/16/2022:

The Norwegian government has announced that Freya, the 1,500-pound walrus seen lounging around Frognerkilen bay over the past few weeks, has been euthanized. The decision was made over concerns the public was not listening to calls to steer clear of the marine mammal, for their own safety.

Writing in a press release, Frank Bakke-Jensen, the director general of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, said, “The decision to euthanize the walrus was made based on an overall assessment of the continued threat to human safety. Highly skilled and trained personnel executed the order in conduct with current routines and regulations for euthanasia for marine mammals.”

The decision to euthanize Freya comes after the Directorate of Fisheries said that such action was “out of the question” and “the last option,” as walruses are a protected species in Norway.

Crowd gathered on a dock, with Freya the walrus in the water
Despite numerous warnings from officials, people kept crowding around Freya. (Photo Credit: Fiskeridirektoratet – Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries)

However, officials began to warn the public that euthanasia was under consideration, as people weren’t leaving the walrus alone. Some were swimming up to the mammal, while others were throwing various objects at her. The Directorate of Fisheries claimed there was no other plan that would have ensured Freya’s safety, which was also cited as a reason for her being euthanized.

“The Directorate of Fisheries’ assessment is that the public’s negligent behavior and failure to follow the recommendations from the authorities can endanger life and health,” said Nadia Jdaini, senior communications adviser of the Directorate of Fisheries.

“Animal welfare is clearly weakened. The walrus does not get enough rest and the professionals we are in dialogue with consider her to be stressed.”

Word of Freya’s euthanasia has resulted in public outcry online, with social media users calling the move unnecessary. Rune Aae, a researcher who was tracking Freya’s journey, responded to the news by saying, “This is Norway in a nutshell. Too often we kill the animals we don’t like or can’t cope with. It’s an outrage in Norway how we are treating animals.”

Aae also criticized authorities for not creating a safe space for Freya, which could have been accomplished by blocking off areas where she could spend time.

Bakke-Jensen responded to the public outcry, saying, “We have sympathies for the fact that the decision can cause reactions with the public, but I am firm that this was the right call. We have great regard for animal welfare, but human life and safety must take precedence.”

Freya’s body has been handed over to the proper authorities for further handling and examinations by a veterinarian.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

Norwegian boaters and fishermen are having to contend with a threat they likely never anticipated: a 1,500-pound lounging walrus named Freya. The large marine mammal has reportedly been sunbathing on boats just off the country’s coast, damaging the vessels and, at points, causing them to sink.

Freya the walrus lying on a tarp
Freya the walrus rests on a boat in Frognerkilen, Oslo Fjord, Norway, on July 19, 2022. (Photo Credit: TOR ERIK SCHRDER / NTB / AFP / Getty Images)

Freya, named for the Norse goddess, has been in the public eye since late 2021, having traveled south from the Arctic Circle. She made stops in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, before arriving in Norway during the summer of 2022. Wildlife experts have been able to keep tabs on the walrus due to the distinctive “little pink spot” on her nose.

In June 2022, Freya was spotted near the town of Kragerø, about 100 miles from Oslo. She’s since made her way to the Norwegian capital, frequenting Frognerkilen bay. This has been to the excitement of onlookers and the dismay of boaters, who have suffered damage to their vessels after Freya tried to climb aboard and sunbathe on them.

According to researchers, a floating platform has been constructed and placed in the water, in the hopes of attracting Freya away from the boats. However, it’s not lured her away. The hope is she’ll slowly grow accustomed to the dock, which will then be used to transport her back to the Arctic Circle.

Freya the walrus lying on her back
Freya the walrus lies at the waterfront in Frognerstranda, Oslo, Norway, on July 18, 2022. (Photo Credit: TOR ERIK SCHRDER / NTB / AFP / Getty Images)

While the majority of the public has fallen in love with the sunbathing walrus, experts have begun to grow concerned for her safety, as people have started to surround her on land and in the water. Speaking with Norwegian news agency NTB, researcher Rune Aae shared that Freya is likely stressed out by all the attention.

“She doesn’t get any peace,” Aae said. “Everything indicated that she wanted to get away. But she couldn’t because she was trapped. She needs to relax for up to 20 hours. When she is constantly stressed out by people and their presence, it is not good for her.”

Ideas to keep onlookers away have been proposed, such as cordoning off parts of the dock in Frognerkilen bay, but nothing has been settled upon.

As aforementioned, Freya has been traveling along the northern part of Europe since 2021. In December of that year, she was spotted lounging on a salmon cage off the coast of the uninhabited island of Vementry, in Scotland.

Among the most unusual places the walrus has been caught sunbathing was atop a submarine docked off the coast of a naval base in the northern Netherlands. Funnily enough, the underwater vessel was of the Walrus-class of submarines, the only type currently operated by the Royal Netherlands Navy.

Freya the walrus lying on her back
Freya the walrus lies at the waterfront in Frognerstranda, Oslo, Norway, on July 18, 2022. (Photo Credit: TOR ERIK SCHRDER / NTB / AFP / Getty Images)

The consensus is that Freya’s move from the Arctic Circle is largely due to climate change. The ice caps typically inhabited by walruses have begun to melt at a rapid pace, forcing the species to travel to new locations. This puts them at added risk of exhaustion and starvation.

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Another concern is shipping traffic and the acidification of the world’s oceans. As Travis Parker, a researcher at the National History Museum in London, England, wrote in November 2021:

“If we keep losing sea ice we will probably see a reduction in [the walrus] population, but it probably won’t drive them to extinction. Shipping traffic and acidification pose a greater threat. Vessel strikes are a hazard, while shipping pollution and ocean acidification put their prey, such as bivalves and clams, at risk.”

cfitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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