Norway puts down Freya, the walrus that drew the crowd in Oslo

BERLIN — Authorities in Norway have euthanized a walrus that had drawn crowds of onlookers into the Oslofjord after they concluded it posed a risk to humans.

The 600-kilogram female walrus, affectionately known as Freya, has become a popular attraction in Norway in recent weeks, despite warnings from officials that people should refrain from getting up close and posing for photos with the huge marine mammal. Freya liked to climb small boats, causing them damage.

Walruses are protected and last month officials said they hoped Freya would leave of her own accord and that euthanasia would be a last resort.

Norway’s Directorate of Fisheries said Freya was euthanized early on Sunday “on the basis of an overall assessment of the ongoing threat to human safety.”

“Observations on the ground over the past week have made it clear that the public has ignored the current recommendation to keep a clear distance from the walrus,” it said. “Therefore, the Directorate concluded that the potential for potential harm to humans was high and that animal welfare was not being maintained.”

Directorate chief Frank Bakke-Jensen said other options, including moving the animal to another location, were being considered. But the authorities concluded that it was not a viable option.

“We are sympathetic to the fact that the decision may cause a reaction from the public, but I am convinced that it was the right decision,” Bakke-Jensen said. “We have great respect for animal welfare, but human lives and safety must come first.”

Atlantic walruses normally live in the Arctic. It is unusual, but not unheard of, for them to travel to the North Sea and Baltic Sea. Another walrus, nicknamed Wally, was spotted last year on beaches and even a lifeboat dock in Wales and elsewhere.

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