A salmon pen in Shetland has become a temporary home for an unusual visitor – a walrus weighing three-quarters of a ton.
The female walrus, which has been named “Freya” has set up camp on a salmon pen at Cooke Aquaculture’s fish farm at Aith Ness, on the coast of Shetland’s West Mainland.
Walruses normally stay in Arctic waters, but this individual has been spotted in the North Sea, on the coast of Northumberland and even as far south as the Netherlands.
Walruses are pinnipeds, related to seals and sea lions. They are benthic feeders, living off shellfish and other invertebrates on the sea bed, and typically resting on ice floes – or in Freya’s case, the platform of a salmon pen. Salmon are not their natural prey and, Cooke said, Freya poses no threat to the fish in the pen, which seem quite relaxed about their new neighbour. She appears to be finding an abundant food supply so far.
A spokesman for the company said: “We have been able to work around her without disturbing her. We are very happy that Freya has chosen to spend some time with us.”
The company has warned budding naturalists not to disturb Freya by approaching her, and to be aware that Aith is a working salmon farm – so visitors are advised to keep a distance from the pens, for their own safety and that of the fish.
Walruses are rare visitors to Shetland and there is no telling how long this individual will stay at Aith Ness, before her urge to wander takes her to other shores.