Authorities Seek Solution for Rogue Sea Otter Causing Trouble for Surfers and Kayakers off California’s Coast

by Michael Nguyen
sea otter aggression

Wildlife authorities embarked on a mission to apprehend a stray sea otter on Thursday that has been causing disturbance among surfers and approaching kayakers with aggression along the Santa Cruz coastline in California.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a statement, citing the 5-year-old female otter’s consistent aggression towards humans over the past few weeks, presenting a potential risk to public safety.

Videos and photos circulating on social media depict this marine mammal mounting various surfboards, and on at least one occasion, biting and tearing pieces off a board while displaying confrontational behavior towards surfers.

A joint effort between wildlife experts from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the neighboring Monterey Bay Aquarium is underway to capture and relocate the animal to a different habitat, according to the service.

“While no injuries have been reported, individuals engaging in recreational activities, such as kayaking and surfing, in the area should refrain from approaching or encouraging interactions with the otter due to its highly unusual behavior,” advised the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Federal wildlife officials acknowledged the highly uncommon nature of the otter’s conduct, attributing it to unknown causes.

“Aggressive behavior in female southern sea otters could stem from hormonal fluctuations or due to human feeding,” stated federal officials.

The otter in question, named sea otter 841 by wildlife authorities, was born in captivity and released into the wild in June 2020. Equipped with a tag displaying her number and a radio transmitter being monitored by officials for tracking purposes, she will be located and captured, as stated by wildlife officials.

This is not the first time this otter has displayed aggressive tendencies towards humans. Observations from late 2021 documented her approaching people. In May of the same year, she was sighted with a pup in the Santa Cruz area and later exhibited similar aggressive behavior four months later.

In September, a team consisting of California wildlife officials and staff from the Monterey Bay Aquarium attempted to deter sea otter 841 by creating negative associations through loud shouting and using a paddle to create disturbance in the water, as confirmed by Kevin Connor, a spokesperson for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

“Unfortunately, these efforts proved unsuccessful, and as we can see, the interactions with people persisted and escalated, resulting in a very audacious otter 841,” Connor remarked.

“We hope the animal reverts to its natural survival instinct and develops a healthy fear of people to prevent further encounters,” he added.

Once captured, the otter will undergo evaluation by aquarium veterinarians and will find a new home in a zoo or aquarium, serving as an “ambassador” for her species, according to Connor.

In the event that the animal harms a person, wildlife officials would need to consider euthanizing her, he noted.

Southern sea otters, whose population was reduced to a mere 50 in 1938, are under the management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They are federally listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and receive protection under the Marine Mammal Act as well as California state law.

With a current population of approximately 3,000, sea otters play a crucial role in maintaining the health of coastal ecosystems. By preying on sea urchins that can multiply and devastate kelp forests, they contribute significantly to the preservation of these environments, explained Connor.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about sea otter aggression

Q: Why are wildlife officials trying to capture the sea otter?

A: Wildlife officials are trying to capture the sea otter because it has been exhibiting aggressive behavior towards surfers and kayakers, posing a public safety risk.

Q: What actions has the sea otter been taking?

A: The sea otter has been wrestling surfboards away from surfers, biting and tearing chunks off the boards, and aggressively approaching surfers and kayakers.

Q: How long has the sea otter been showing aggression towards people?

A: The sea otter has been displaying aggression towards people for several weeks, prompting concerns for public safety.

Q: What is the cause of the otter’s aggressive behavior?

A: The exact cause for the otter’s aggressive behavior is unknown, but it could be associated with hormonal surges or being fed by humans.

Q: What are the authorities doing to capture the otter?

A: A team of wildlife experts from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Monterey Bay Aquarium are working together to capture and relocate the otter to a new home.

Q: What will happen to the otter once captured?

A: Once captured, the otter will be evaluated by aquarium veterinarians and given a new home, possibly in a zoo or aquarium, where she can serve as an ambassador for her species.

Q: Are sea otters protected under any laws?

A: Yes, southern sea otters are protected under the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Act, and California state law due to their threatened status.

Q: What is the role of sea otters in coastal ecosystems?

A: Sea otters play a fundamental role in maintaining healthy coastal ecosystems. They prey on sea urchins, which helps control their population and prevents damage to kelp forests.

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OceanWatcher July 14, 2023 - 6:01 pm

It’s sad to hear about the otter’s aggressive behavior. I hope they can relocate it to a safer environment and help it become less confrontational with humans.

NatureLover22 July 14, 2023 - 9:46 pm

Whoa, didn’t know sea otters could be so aggressive! Hope they figure out why it’s acting like this. Good luck to the wildlife officials!

BeachGoer77 July 15, 2023 - 12:08 am

I love seeing sea otters in their natural habitat, but safety should always come first. It’s important for everyone to be cautious and respect the wildlife.

Conservationist101 July 15, 2023 - 6:11 am

Protecting both people and wildlife is a delicate balance. Let’s hope this otter can find a new home where it can thrive without posing a risk to others.

KayakChamp July 15, 2023 - 6:40 am

That otter is causing a real commotion out there! Can’t imagine trying to kayak with a feisty otter approaching. Hope they find a solution soon.


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