Thor's visit brought in large crowds who were able to witness the walrus' playful behavior.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 3, 2023. It has since been updated.
The Scarborough Borough Council went the extra mile this New Year to make sure they didn't cause any 'distress' to a walrus resting on the seaside town's shores. The town canceled the New Year's fireworks after the Arctic walrus named Thor was seen in North Yorkshire on the afternoon of December 30. According to Sky News, Thor is believed to have stopped at the town to take a break during his journey up north. In December 2022, he was spotted on the Hampshire coastline and has also reportedly previously been seen as far away as Brittany in France.
WATCH: Thor the walrus has dropped anchor in Scarborough. Experts believe he’s resting here after long swim before moving on. He has previously been spotted in Norfolk. More @itvtynetees pic.twitter.com/vMw6vTCxp5— Gregg Easteal (@GreggEastealITV) December 31, 2022
The fireworks were canceled after the British Divers Marine Life Rescue expressed concerns that the loud sounds and bright flashes could cause "distress" to Thor. Its experts had earlier cordoned off the place where the marine mammal rested and asked people not to disturb it. Although council leader Steve Siddons expressed disappointment over the fireworks being canceled, he told The Guardian that he believes "the welfare of the walrus has to take precedence."
Hundreds braved the cold of the coastline today to catch a glimpse of new local celebrity, Thor the Walrus... 🥶@GreggEastealITV went along to see what all the fuss was abouthttps://t.co/OknSsMEFrp— ITV News Tyne Tees (@itvtynetees) December 31, 2022
Stuart Ford, who runs the Sealife Safari boat tour agency, told BBC that he spotted Thor while going down to his boat. "There it was on the slipway - magnificent. It's got to be half a ton," he said. "I think it's a once-in-a-lifetime, first-time-ever thing in Scarborough to see." Thor's visit reportedly brought in large crowds who got to see some of Thor's playful behavior. RSPCA inspector Geoff Edmond said that the walrus did not seem to be sick or injured and urged curious visitors to enjoy viewing him from a respectful distance. He said: "We understand it's exciting and unusual to have the walrus take up a temporary residence, however, it's in his best interests to be left alone as much as possible, so we're asking people to remember he is a wild animal and avoid the temptation to get near to him and disturb him."
Edmond added, "We would also remind everyone that the walrus is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, and so disturbing the animal may constitute an offense." Thor was filmed returning to the sea on New Year's Day, slowly inching towards the water, plopping in and then swimming away. Chris Cook, from the (BDMLR) charity, said: "It is extremely rare that an Arctic walrus should come ashore on the Yorkshire coast."Speaking to BBC after Thor was spotted on the south coast of England earlier in December 2022, World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) Rod Downie said that the mammal's sighting was "extremely rare but not unprecedented."
Thor has gone! After Scarborough Council took the decision to cancel their New Year's Eve fireworks to protect the walrus's welfare, he swam away before midnighthttps://t.co/DmPY76gjs8— The Yorkshire Post (@yorkshirepost) January 1, 2023
He added that the walrus is an adolescent "vagrant" swimming south alone and might have traveled from as far away as the Canadian Arctic. Downie explained that although walruses prefer colder waters, the mammal can easily survive on the British waters as he is able to have his usual diet of clams and mussels off the seabed.
Moreover, he highlighted an issue arising due to climate change. "The Arctic is witnessing the effects of climate change more rapidly than anywhere," he said. "Walruses are living on the front line of climate change and face massive threats as sea ice diminishes. Walruses like colder waters, so it would be counter-intuitive to see more of them here - as Arctic waters warm, they would instinctively go further north to colder waters."