A Southern sea otter, nicknamed Otter 841, has been hassling surfers at Santa Cruz, California's Steamer Lane all summer. The five-year-old appears unannounced at the famous surfing spot. She then effortlessly hoists herself out of the ocean and onto surfboards. Sometimes, the otter destroys the boards by chewing on them. Other times, she bullies the startled surfer into giving up the board entirely.
Santa Cruz resident Adi Mahan is one of Otter 841's many victims. He told KSBW Action News, "841 appeared pretty suddenly behind my board and swam up, latched on to my board and mounted my board, made eye contact, and started mashing her teeth. I screamed, and she veered away, but it was definitely a scary experience."
Otter 841's antics have made her a local celebrity. Hundreds of people flock to the shore daily, hoping to catch her in action. A local ice cream shop has even created a new flavor in her honor. "Sea Otter 841" is a cinnamon caramel ice cream with chunks of Snickerdoodle cookie dough. Surfers also reluctantly admit they enjoy the otter's presence in the water.
However, the US Fish & Wildlife (USFW) officials are not as thrilled. They believe the aggressive animal could hurt people and are trying to capture her. They have used surfboards as bait and used various types of nets. Even scuba divers with a unique underwater trap were enlisted. The clever otter has managed to outsmart them thus far. But the officials are not giving up. Once caught, Otter 841 will undergo a health examination. She will then be sent to a forever home at a nearby zoo or aquarium.
Southern sea otters, also known as California sea otters, can be found in nearshore areas along the central California coastline. The animals were hunted relentlessly for fur in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were considered extinct until a family of 50 was found in Big Sur, CA. Thanks to protective measures taken by California officials, the mammal's population in the wild has rebounded to about 3,000. They are, however, still considered endangered.
Resources: NPR.com, thestar.com, SFgate.com