Grand theft otter: ‘Aggressive’ critter swiping surfboards, harassing swimmers – National

Grand theft otter: ‘Aggressive’ critter swiping surfboards, harassing swimmers – National

Though the sight of an otter sunbathing on a surfboard is undoubtedly adorable, one “aggressive” surfboard-snatching sea otter in California is harassing swimmers and causing a nuisance.

A five-year-old female sea otter in the waters off Santa Cruz achieved viral fame this month after a local photographer captured photos and video of the mammal gnawing at numerous surfboards to frighten riders and attempt to steal their boards.

Photographer Mark Woodward, known online as Native Santa Cruz, has been sharing evidence of the otter’s sticky fingers (and powerful bite) online for several weeks now.

On Monday, Woodward said he had watched the sea otter, known simply as 841, inspect several surfboards before setting her sights on a few unlucky wave riders.

“This has become a dangerous situation for both surfers and the sea otter!” Woodward wrote alongside several photos of a surfboard with chunks bitten out of its side.

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Wildlife authorities in the region are not sure why the sea otter is targeting surfers and their boards, but the behaviour has sounded alarm bells.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced on Monday that 841 posed a “public safety risk” in the region. In collaboration with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, wildlife officials said they would capture and relocate 841 away from her home waters.

Authorities have yet to capture the sneaky sea otter.

Sea otters are normally frightened of people and are not known to interact with humans. Still, officials believe 841 may be targeting surfers because of hormonal surges or as a result of being fed by humans in the area.

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In one video clip, Woodward recorded an unidentified surfer as they tried to flip 841 off their board while the sea otter relentlessly chewed at it.

The New York Times reported 841 has been climbing atop surfboards and paddleboards on rare occasions since at least 2021.

However, 841’s antics are on the rise. This weekend alone, 841 allegedly attempted to steal three separate surfboards, the outlet reported.

The five-year-old otter was born in captivity after her mother was brought to the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz because she was climbing into kayaks in search of food handouts from humans. She was weaned and kept away from humans to maintain her natural fear and eventually released back into the wild.

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If 841 were to bite a person, which she hasn’t done yet, the state of California would be required to euthanize the mammal.

Surfers have been asked to avoid interacting with 841 at all costs, both for the otter’s sake and their own. A sea otter’s jaw is incredibly strong in order to bite into shellfish like crabs and mollusks.

Sea otters are an endangered species. The Canadian population of sea otters — not known to steal surfboards — is listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as Special Concern, meaning they are at risk because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.

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