The elusive surfing otter of Santa Cruz, known for its board-pilfering antics and aggressive behavior towards surfers, managed to evade capture once again over the weekend.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has been making efforts to capture the otter and relocate it to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The plan is to examine and provide a new home for the otter at another aquarium facility.
Despite their close proximity to the otter, the Fish and Wildlife team was unsuccessful in their capture attempts on Saturday.
“The usual method for safely capturing healthy, wild sea otters is a clandestine underwater approach,” according to Colleen Young, an environmental scientist and sea otter biologist with CDFW. “In this case, however, the water has generally been too murky for us to see the animal from below. We are adapting other capture methods to this situation but must ensure the safety of both the sea otter and the people attempting capture, which has limited our options and opportunities.”
The Twitter account @NativeSantaCruz has been documenting the otter’s shenanigans for the past week. The initial video that caught the attention of wildlife officials showed 841 dangerously comfortable with a surfer and his surfboard:
An amazing video!— Native Santa Cruz (@NativeSantaCruz) July 10, 2023
This video of the sea otter attacking a surfboard yesterday was shared me and is being posted with the photographers permission. The video must remain in this tweet to be shared. This is a dangerous sea otter, avoid it if at all possible! pic.twitter.com/N7qPMFVRrt
Another video shows 841 eluding capture from wildlife officials:
Yesterday, 841 hopped on the surfboard for multiple rides being pulled by someone from Fish and Wildlife, only to jump off so they could do it again. It appears she thought it was fun pic.twitter.com/RrTE1hm51w— Native Santa Cruz (@NativeSantaCruz) July 16, 2023
While this particular otter, known as 841, has been linked to interactions with surfers for several years, it wasn’t until June 2023 that the otter’s thieving behavior was caught on camera. According to the Santa Cruz Police, 841 has had at least four encounters with surfers this summer and is notorious for biting, scratching, and even climbing on top of surfboards.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife emphasized that even if the otter were to bite a surfer, their primary goal remains capturing and relocating her. Ashley McConnell, spokesperson for the agency, stated that euthanasia would not be considered, regardless of any escalation in the otter’s aggression.