“Otter 841” has quickly become a social media phenomenon for her brazen attacks on Santa Cruz surfers and kayakers, and moreover, both federal and state authorities are coming up empty in their attempts to capture her.
A five-year-old female sea otter named “Otter 841” has been wreaking havoc for weeks in the waters off Santa Cruz. KRON4 reports that the otter has been chasing people off their surfboards, sometimes going for a surf herself, and sometimes just gnawing away at the surfboard. She’s named Otter 841 because she was born in captivity, and is tagged and has a radio transmitter. But none of that is doing any good for perplexed wildlife officials who are trying to capture her, and those officials are at a loss to explain her ongoing reign of terror.
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
A typical Otter 841 encounter with a surfer is seen above. Admire her complete lack of fear toward human beings, and her determination to not give up the fight as she menaces people off their surfboards. Baffled wildlife experts from both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have stepped up their efforts to capture her, but to no avail.
What a crazy day! Fish and Game spent all day on West Cliff and in the water trying to capture sea otter 841(her official “name”) but were unsuccessful. Here is there boat with a “bait surfboard” and the tracking gear that was on land pic.twitter.com/dNR4cRaEVN— Native Santa Cruz (@NativeSantaCruz) July 13, 2023
KTVU interviewed the photographer who captured the pictures and video in both of the above tweets, Mark Woodward, who's been observing those officials’ futile attempts to catch the otter. "They can't throw a net over it because it will get tangled and drown," Woodward told KTVU. "That's also why they can't tranquilize it."
For now, those officials are simply warning people to just maybe not surf and kayak in that area until they can catch the aggressive little critter.
California wildlife officials are hoping to apprehend a 5-year-old sea otter who has a knack for riding the waves after committing longboard larceny. Called Otter 841 by officials, she is well known for both her bold behavior and her ability to hang 10. https://t.co/CvBb3lZjXt pic.twitter.com/I9UAKMCeFK— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 12, 2023
“While there have been no confirmed reports of injury, due to the highly unusual behavior of this otter, kayakers, surfers, and others recreating in the area should not approach the otter or encourage the otter’s interactions,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement to KRON4.
Officials aren’t sure why Otter 841 is behaving so aggressively, but they have a few ideas. “Aggressive behavior in female southern sea otters may be associated with hormonal surges or due to being fed by humans,” the same statement said.
These southern sea otters are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and according to KRON4, there were only about 50 still alive of them back in the late 1930s. Now their population is up to about 3,000, and they’re being reintroduced to more areas. But if Otter 841 bites or harms anyone, she will have to be euthanized.
The better scenario would be for her to be captured, at which point she’d be moved to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. KTVU says she would then be “transferred to a permanent home in captivity,” hopefully someplace where the fans she’s acquired on social media would be able to go see her.
Image: mana5280 via Unsplash