Norway Puts Down Freya The Walrus, Igniting Debate

A young female walrus nicknamed Freya rests on a boat in Frognerkilen, Oslo Fjord, Norway, on July 19, 2022
Getty Images | Tor Erik Schrøder / NTB / AFP

As a maritime nation, Norway is no stranger to bizarre aquatic attractions. The latest is a popular — but destructive — walrus named Freya.

Freya had become a local celebrity of sorts, but her tendency to lounge on boats made her a public safety concern, and the decision to euthanize her was made by Norway's Department of Fisheries.

It's a sad end to a unique saga, and one that isn't free of controversy.

Freya had been hanging out by the Oslo coast.

The massive, 1,300 pound walrus had become a bit of a celebrity during a summer months. While many walruses will actively avoid human contact, Freya had no apparent fear when it came to clambering up onto boats.

Her name was a tribute to Norse mythology.

Nicknamed 'Freya' after the Norse goddess of fertility and love, the walrus was not particularly aggressive towards humans. Many Instagrammers got quite close to the beast and took snapshots as she lounged close to shore.

She was first spotted in 2019.

Researchers first became aware of her in 2019, according to Rune Aae, a doctoral student in science didactics at the University of Southeastern Norway. Over the past few years, she mostly minded her business, but the summer of 2022 became the summer of Freya.

Officials made the decision to euthanize Freya this past weekend.

"The decision to euthanize the walrus was made based on an overall assessment of the continued threat to human safety," said Frank Bakke-Jensen, director general at the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries.

"I am firm that this was the right call."

A young female walrus nicknamed Freya rests on a boat in Frognerkilen, Oslo Fjord, Norway, on July 19, 2022
Getty Images | Tor Erik Schrøder / NTB / AFP

Bakke-Jensen said in the release that other options were considered, including moving Freya to another fjord. Unfortunately, moving a 1,300 animal is easier said than done, and the department concluded that it was not a viable option.

Was the decision made in haste?

Rune Aae, the doctoral student who's been tracking Freya since 2019, thinks so. In a Facebook post, Aae called the move "hasty" and "completely unnecessary." Aae suggested using tracking to ensure that people stayed away from Freya.

Walruses are a protected species in Norway.

While there are an estimated 225,000 walruses worldwide, their coastal habitats are being threatened by climate change. Many walruses have been forced to hunt on land as melting ice increases competition for food.

The decision to euthanize was surprising.

Just last month, the Directorate of Fisheries announced that "euthanasia is out of the question," calling it a "last option" for the popular walrus.

Ultimately, Freya's willingness to get up close and personal with humans — and humans continuing to get too close to her as well — were deemed to be too much of a threat.

What do you think?

It's certainly sad to see an animal put down, even if there are good reasons for doing so. Have you been following the Freya saga? What are your thoughts? Be sure to let us know in the comments.