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Norway euthanizes Freya the walrus, who drew crowds to Oslo Fjord

Tor Erik Schrder/NTB/AFP via Getty Images

(OSLO, Norway) — A 1,300-pound walrus that became a popular attraction in Norway in recent weeks was euthanized on Sunday, after officials concluded the marine mammal posed a risk to humans.

Increasingly large crowds of people came to the Oslo Fjord to see the female walrus, named Freya, who climbed onto small boats to sunbathe. After warning the public to stay away, the Norwegian government made the decision to have Freya put down early Sunday.

“Through on-site observations the past week it was made clear that the public has disregarded the current recommendation to keep a clear distance to the walrus,” Norway’s Directorate of Fisheries said in a statement. “Therefore, the Directorate has concluded, the possibility for potential harm to people was high and animal welfare was not being maintained.”

The head of the directorate, Frank Bakke-Jensen, said several possible solutions, including moving Freya, were considered but were ultimately deemed not viable.

“There were several animal welfare concerns associated with a possible relocation,” Bakke-Jensen said in a statement Sunday. “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.”

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When Freya arrived in the Oslo Fjord last month, the directorate said officials were closely monitoring the walrus and were preparing to relocate her if possible. They said they hoped she would leave of her own accord.

“Neither the Directorate of Fisheries nor researchers we are in contact with recommend culling. It is therefore currently not applicable, and other options are being considered,” the directorate said in a statement on July 20.

At that time, Freya was “doing well, taking food, resting” and appeared “to be in good condition,” according to the directorate.

“The conditions around her are calm, with few cases of close human encounters,” the directorate said in another statement on July 25. “Walruses do not normally pose a danger to humans as long as you keep your distance. However, when it is disturbed by humans and does not get the rest it needs, it may feel threatened and attack. Nearby people can provoke dangerous situations.”

Walruses are a protected species in Norway. They’re native to the Arctic Circle. It’s unusual — though not unheard of — for them to travel farther south. Last year, a walrus named Wally was spotted on Valentia Island in Ireland.

ABC News’ Christine Theodorou contributed to this report.

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