The ocean is a dangerous place at the best of times and now another creature, a sea otter by the name of 841, has joined the orcas in the great uprising of marine animals in 2023. We jest, of course, but maybe consider other places to surf this summer than the California coast.
Otter 841 is a 5-year-old female sea otter who has been hijacking the surfboards of surfers in Santa Cruz, California. Unfortunately, she has a somewhat tragic backstory. Otter 841's mother, Otter 723, was orphaned as a youngster and raised in captivity, according to the BBC. After Otter 723's release back into the waters off the California coastline, offers of squid from people habituated her, and led to her climbing aboard kayaks in search of food.
After this, she was recaptured and cared for by the team at Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz, where they revealed she was pregnant, and she gave birth while at the center. That pup was Otter 841. After the pup was weaned she was moved to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where the caretakers of Otter 841 took extra care to not give her positive associations with people before her release.
“After one year of being in the wild without issue, we started receiving reports of her interactions with surfers, kayakers and paddle boarders,” Jessica Fujii, sea otter program manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, told the New York Times. “We do not know why this started. We have no evidence that she was fed. But it has persisted in the summers for the last couple of years.”
Unfortunately, these negative interactions have progressed to aggressive surfboard stealing, as shown in these videos on social media taken by Mark Woodward, who has the Instagram account NativeSantaCruz. What’s worse is that if Otter 841 were to bite someone, she would have to be killed by the state. Before it gets to that point though, officials from the California Fish and Wildlife Service (CFWS) are attempting to catch the wiley sea otter.
So far, Otter 841 has evaded capture and remains at large.
And Sammy the seal is the latest sea creature to take on a surfboard.