𝘈𝘢𝘨𝘢𝘴𝘡 23, 2022

When I blogged about Dirk the Bison goring four individuals (separate occasions/animals) in Yellowstone National Park over a period of two months I was surprised they had not decided to euthanize the animals. The usual response for people doing stupid things that gets them injured is to kill the animal that was trying to protect itself. Later in July the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs shared a photograph of a crowd of humans standing within arm’s reach of a walrus they had named Freya, who was relaxing on the shore. On a different occasion, police had to physically block a bathing area after Freya chased a woman who had gotten too close to her into the water. Authorities said that humans had been seen swimming with Freya, throwing objects at her, and invading her personal space for photos. Unlike Dirk, Freya had not physically harmed any of these selfie seekers. The 1,320-pound female walrus was put down on Sunday, August 14 by Norway’s Directorate of Fisheries, “based on an overall assessment of the continued threat to human safety” (read, humans refused to leave her alone). Freya was the goddess of love and war in Norse mythology. The Directorate stated the people loved Freya so much they were forced to put her down. It seemed to be a love/hate relationship like the myth.

When I looked online, I found the walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) is a large flippered marine mammal with a discontinuous distribution about the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean and subarctic seas of the Northern Hemisphere. The walrus is the only living species in the family Odobenidae and genus Odobenus. The species is subdivided into two subspecies: the Atlantic walrus (O. r. rosmarus), which lives in the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific walrus (O. r. divergens), which lives in the Pacific Ocean. An adult walrus is distinguished by their prominent tusks and whiskers, and their considerable bulk. Adult Pacific walrus males can weigh more than 4,400 pounds (2,000 kilograms) and, among the pinnipeds, are only exceeded in size by the two species of elephant seals. Walruses live mostly in shallow waters above the continental shelves, spending significant amounts of their lives on the sea ice looking for benthic bivalve mollusks to eat. Walruses are relatively long-lived, social animals, and they are considered a “keystone species” in the Arctic marine regions.

The walrus has played a prominent role in the cultures of many Indigenous Arctic peoples, who have hunted the walrus for its meat, fat, skin, tusks, and bone. Skin and bone are used in some ceremonies, and the animal appears frequently in legends. During the 19th century and the early 20th century, walruses were widely hunted and killed for their blubber, walrus ivory, and meat, and the walrus population fell rapidly around the Arctic region. Their population has rebounded somewhat, though populations of Atlantic and Laptev walruses remain fragmented and at low levels compared with the time before human interference. Walruses are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. However, several experts stated Freya’s death will have little impact on the walrus numbers. Try and tell that to Freya.

π—§π—›π—’π—¨π—šπ—›π—§π—¦: Shortly after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 a few sea lions began to arrive at Pier 39’s West Marina in San Francisco. By January of 1990 they had arrived in droves and the population grew to more than 300. The marina was closed, and the docks given over to the pinnipeds. Now each winter, the population can increase up to 900 sea lions, most of which are male. During the summer most of the sea lions migrate south to the Channel Islands for breeding season, but in recent years a small group has preferred to stay year-round. This has caused incidents when humans try and get too close to the animals, but rather than drive them away (or euthanize them), the city has made it illegal to approach or feed them. The sea lions have become one of San Francisco’s leading attractions. That was not the fate of Freya. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.

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