Otterly unusual: Sea otter turns surfboard swindler in Santa Cruz

A fearless female sea otter, known as Otter 841, has been swiping surfboards right from under Santa Cruz surfers. Over recent summers, she's ramped up her felonious habits, inciting concern among local officials who have deemed her antics a public safety risk. A team of trained specialists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Monterey Bay Aquarium is currently on a mission to capture and rehome this bold board-jacker, now a local legend.

Otter 841, a product of human contact at an early age, has lost the typical fear of humans that her species usually exhibit, leading to an increasingly audacious behavior that ranges from climbing on kayaks to attacking and commandeering surfboards. Despite efforts to avoid humanization during her upbringing at Monterey Bay Aquarium, 841 continues to interact with water sports enthusiasts, even damaging their equipment.

The New York Times:

Otter 841 was first observed climbing aboard watercraft in Santa Cruz in 2021. At first, the behavior was a rarity, but over time the otter grew more bold. This past weekend, the otter was observed stealing surfboards on three separate occasions.

On Monday, Joon Lee, 40, a software engineer, was surfing at Steamer Lane, a popular surf spot in Santa Cruz, when 841 approached his board.

"I tried to paddle away, but I wasn't able to get far before it bit off my leash," he said.

Lee abandoned his board and watched in horror as the otter climbed atop it and proceeded to rip chunks out of it with her powerful jaws.

"I tried to get it off by flipping the board over and pushing it away, but it was so fixated on my surfboard for whatever reason, it just kept attacking," he said.

Side note: I would like to congratulate The New York Times for coming up with this delightful headline: She Steals Surfboards by the Seashore. She's a Sea Otter.