Norway’s beloved Freya the walrus could be put down for safety reasons, the country’s Directorate of Fisheries warned Thursday.
The 1,300-pound female walrus has become an icon – capturing hearts (and making some mariner enemies) as she sunbathes and chows down on nearby boats, at times sinking them. In addition to Norway, Freya has made appearances to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden in recent years.
With the help of viral social media posts, the friendly walrus has garnered fame worldwide. Flocks of fans have come to see Freya during her time on Norway’s Oslofjord this summer – but are getting too close, the Directorate of Fisheries said.
Meet Freya:1,300-pound walrus capturing hearts, sinking boats and irking mariners
According to the government agency, the public has been going to the water’s edge to pose for photos, sometimes trying to bathe with Freya, and throwing objects at her – failing to follow authorities’ recommendations and, most importantly, endangering the health of the marine animal.
In addition to Freya’s well-being, this behavior can put people in danger, senior communications advisor in the Directorate of Fisheries Nadia Jdaini explained in the Thursday statement.
Jadini said that the Directorate of Fisheries was looking into further action – and that euthanasia is now an option. A final decision has not been made yet.
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“There is a possibility to greenlight a controlled operation to put the animal down” as a “last resort,” spokesman for the Directorate of Fisheries Vegard Oen Hatten, told The New York Times on Friday.
“This is a unique situation,” Hatten added. “It’s the first time an animal has stayed out of their natural habitat for so long.”
Last month, the Directorate of Fisheries said that euthanasia was “out of the question” and again a last option, noting that walruses are a protected species in Norway. The agency added that if Freya, for example, had to be euthanized, they would collaborate with a veterinarian from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research.
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Another option, the Directorate of Fisheries said, could be moving Freya.
But relocation could be difficult. The process includes tranquilization which brings “a risk of (the walrus) drowning,” communications adviser at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research Erlend Asta Lorentzen told NBC News.
In the Thursday update, Jadini said the Directorate of Fisheries was in contact with a veterinarian and police to decide on next steps.
Contributing: Natalie Neysa Alund, USA TODAY.