Walruses on the move | Polarjournal
The walrus Freya has caused some unrest in the port of Oslo and caused some damage under its weight of 600-700 kilos. (Photo: Tor Erik Schröder)

While we worry about the animals of the Arctic in view of the ongoing global warming, there are also unusual reports of “escapees”. One of these is a young walrus named Freya. Freya has been on the move for some time. Walruses normally prefer the Arctic, but Freya prefers to live further south. After her media-effective passage through the Dutch Wadden Sea in October 2021 and trips to Germany, Denmark and the United Kingdom, she arrived in Norway in June.

The extraordinary route taken by the walrus Freya surprises even experts. (Image: Screenshot, map originally created by Rune Aae, University of South-Eastern Norway)

Freya is not very picky when it comes to finding places to rest. While the Dutch Royal Navy submarine was stable enough for the walrus to sunbathe, Freya’s habit of lying on ships instead of ice floes causes problems. Major damage is reported from Norway. The boats that Freya prefers are usually too small. Numerous boats have been damaged and several have sunk under the 600-700 kg walrus. Insurance claims have already been made for the “vandalism”.

Freya on an unusual resting place under observation by the Dutch Royal Navy. Freya is not picky, this time it’s a submarine. (Photo: Bert de Groot)

Walrus Freya in Oslo

Freya has caused quite a stir in the Norwegian capital Oslo over the past few days. On Monday, the walrus blocked a rower who tried in vain to chase the animal away with a garden hose. On Tuesday, the local police were called into action. The harbor police tried to chase Freya away from a boat with a large water hose. Swimmers are advised to get out of the water if they see Freya. Not because she is aggressive towards people, but because she might want to play and pull swimmers under the water.

If only that goes well. A number of boat owners have already taken to social media to report some damage. (Photo: De Standaard)

Frustrated boat owners make it clear in local and international media that they wish the animal would disappear. But it would also be better for the welfare of the walrus itself if it moved on.

In the meantime, scientists have devised a plan to restore peace between the walrus and humans. They want to teach Freya to lie down on a floating platform attached to a ship. As soon as she has acclimatized to her new place, they will tow the walrus to the northern Norwegian coast.

“Stena”, as the Finnish walrus was called, has come to rest on Hamina beach. In contrast to Freya, it was a full-grown walrus. (Photo: YLE News)

Walrus “Stena” also causes a stir in Finland

The Finnish coastal town of Hamina also received a very unusual visit from a walrus. The intruder came to rest on a beach before returning to the water by itself on Friday. The walrus was doused with water by rescue workers to prevent it from drying out. The walrus was found among rowing boats along the coast of Salmenvirta. In addition to curious onlookers, the stranded walrus also attracted the attention of experts.

Minna Harju, a resident of Hamina, said she and a colleague watched the walrus crawl onto the beach at around 10am on Friday and it felt like they were watching a nature program on TV. (Photo: Poliisi Kaakko)

Markus Dernjatin, curator of the Sea Life aquarium in Helsinki, said he could not believe the news when he first heard about the stranded walrus, echoing other experts’ opinions about the extremely rare situation.

Dernjatin said wildlife such as whales and even a sea turtle have been spotted along the Finnish coast, but this was the first time he had heard of a walrus in the area.

He said the animal was likely the same one seen elsewhere on the Baltic coast, adding that it was possible the walrus had swum hundreds of miles and then got lost.

Walruses normally live in extreme northern areas such as the Arctic Ocean and the Barents Sea.

“A walrus was spotted in Ireland in the spring and a week ago on the coast of Poland. There are always individual animals that get lost from time to time. They pass through the Danish Straits. They are usually young individuals, but it is difficult to say why they migrate,” said Dernjatin.

A rescue vehicle parked near the walrus for transportation to Korkeasaari Wildlife Hospital. However, the walrus did not survive the transport. (Photo: Juha Metso)

Sad outcome

The attempt to save the walrus failed. The walrus was to be nursed back to health at the Korkeasaari Wildlife Hospital. However, the weakened animal died during the 130-kilometer transport. “The walrus was already in a bad condition during the day, very quiet, not moving much and breathing quite heavily,” said Nina Trontti, Director of Animal Care and Conservation at Korkeasaari Zoo.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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