California works to safely capture “aggressive” surfboard-stealing sea otter

California and federal wildlife officials are taking steps to address the presence of an “aggressive” sea otter that has been exhibiting behavior near Santa Cruz.

The otter, Otter 841, was born at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and released into the wild in 2021.

Since then, surfers and kayakers have been approaching surfers and kayakers, in order to “steal” their boards or transfer equipment, a situation that raises public safety concerns.

Efforts are underway to safely capture otters and relocate them to a suitable environment while recognizing the vital role sea otters play in coastal ecosystems.

“Following capture, the sea otter will undergo a health assessment and eventually be relocated to a zoo or aquarium,” state and federal wildlife officials said in a joint statement.

Operation Otter Catch

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working together with a team of capture specialists from CDFW and the Monterey Bay Aquarium to safely capture Otter 841.

Attempts to capture the otter have been ongoing since July 2 but have been unsuccessful thus far.

Traditionally, capturing healthy wild sea otters has involved a clandestine underwater approach. However, because of turbid water conditions, alternative capture methods must be adapted to ensure the safety of both the otter and capture team.

Although challenging, organizations are committed to exploring all available options to capture otters without resorting to euthanasia or lethal methods.

Importance of Sea Otters and Public Safety

Sea otters play a vital role in coastal ecosystems along the central coast of California. While prioritizing public safety, wildlife officials also recognize the importance of preserving the presence of sea otters in these ecosystems. Lilian Carswell of the U.S. Fish and wildlife services emphasize the importance of capturing the otter to eliminate the potential risk it poses to public safety, according to the UPI.

To aid capture efforts, Otter 841 has been tagged with a radio transmitter, allowing wildlife scientists to track its location according to local media.

However, capturing an otter can take days or weeks because of the challenges faced in the capture process.

Once successfully captured, the otter will be taken to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for thorough health evaluation before being relocated to a permanent home at an aquarium or zoo. State and federal wildlife officials emphasized that euthanasia or lethal methods were not considered in this case.

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Authorities urge surfers and kayakers to avoid approaching sea otters and to comply with safety guidelines. By respecting an otter’s space and maintaining a safe distance, the public can contribute to the overall well-being of humans and wildlife.

Efforts by California and federal wildlife officials to capture the “aggressive” sea otter near Santa Cruz underscore a commitment to preserving public safety while recognizing the importance of sea otters in coastal ecosystems.

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