Russia's suspected 'spy whale' reportedly defected to Norway

A beluga whale, initially believed to be a spy for the Russian navy, has decided it likes it in Norway and is not leaving.

The unamed male whale arrived in Norway wearing a harness equipped to hold a camera or weapon.

Locals have been delighted by the whale, which does tricks and asks for food from watchers.

"It's clearly used to being given tasks and having something to do," Linn Sæther, a local resident told Norway's public broadcaster NRK.

"It reacts when you call it or splash your hands in the water. You can see it's been trained to fetch and bring back whatever is thrown for it."

Another local, Tor Arild Guleng, told the broadcaster the whale followed his boat on a one hour voyage.

"No wild animal seeks you out, sticks its head up and allow you to stroke its nose."

Authorities have directed the public not to feed the whale and it's hoped he will return to the wild and join up with a pod.

He's not leaving though and so far has only strayed a few miles from the small northern harbour where he was found.

It's forced Norway to take responsibility for the whale, with the fisheries directorate saying it will keep an eye on him.

Suggestions the whale is part of the Russian navy began when Norwegian fishermen removed the harness to discover it was labelled "Equipment St Petersberg".

Norway's special police agency is still investigating where the harness came from, but it was quickly suggested the whale was part of some kind of sea mammal task force, the Guardian reports.

The claim has been denied by both current and former members of the Russian navy.

"We're not idiots. If we were conducting reconnaissance with the help of this animal, how would we have done it? Written a mobile phone number on it to call in case something happens?" former army media officer Viktor Baranets told Russian radio station Govorit Moskva.

The Russian armed forces do have a history of using sea mammals though, at one point during the cold war employing "combat dolphins".

Russia announced it was looking to buy five new dolphins in 2016. Documents found at the time show it was looking for two female and three male aged between three to five years with perfect teeth and no physical impairments.