The ocean otter harassing surfers off the California coast eludes seize as her fan membership grows

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — A sea otter launched into the nationwide highlight after photos of her aggressively wresting surfboards away from surfers off the coast of Santa Cruz, California circulated on social media is constructing a fan membership as she continues to evade seize.

A crew of wildlife consultants with the California Division of Fish and Wildlife and the close by Monterey Bay Aquarium have been making an attempt to seize the 5-year-old animal, generally known as otter 841, since final week as a result of they are saying she poses a public security danger.

They are saying they need to look at her and relocate her at a zoo or aquarium —as but to no avail.

She now has a rising fan membership, with individuals exhibiting up day by day to get a glimpse of her spending time sunbathing on the rocky shore, diving within the water and chomping down on crabs.

Jessica Fujii, Sea Otter Program Supervisor on the Monterey Bay Aquarium, mentioned the crew has confronted some challenges in its pursuit, together with unhealthy climate.

“The principle situation is extra simply her capability to evade. As a result of this has been an ongoing effort, she is cautious of these nets,” Fujii mentioned.

Federal and state wildlife officers didn’t return messages from The Related Press in search of remark Thursday on their effort to catch otter 841.

The mischievous mammal was made well-known by an expert photographer who posted images and movies on social media that present her aggressively approaching surfers and getting on high of surfboards — on not less than one event biting and tearing chunks off a board.

“They’ll’t throw a web over her within the water. They’ll’t tranquilize her due to concern of her drowning. So that they actually need to get palms on her,” mentioned the Santa Cruz photographer, Mark Woodward.

The crew making an attempt to seize her has used a baited surfboard. She’s gotten on it a number of instances previously few days, based on Woodward. However as quickly as a wildlife official towing the surfboard carrying her will get close to the crew’s boat, she dives off, he mentioned.

The otter’s aggressive habits is extremely uncommon, and the reason being unknown, federal wildlife officers mentioned.

“Aggressive habits in feminine southern sea otters could also be related to hormonal surges or attributable to being fed by people,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mentioned in an announcement final week.

Otter 841 was born in captivity and launched into the wild in June 2020. She is tagged together with her quantity and has a radio transmitter that officers have been monitoring to maintain tabs on her.

They mentioned it’s not the primary time the otter has been aggressive towards people. She was noticed approaching individuals in late 2021. In Could 2022, she was noticed with a pup within the Santa Cruz space, and 4 months later exhibited related aggressive habits.

In the meantime, her followers need her to be left alone.

“Simply depart ‘em alone. Simply let ’em have enjoyable. Hasn’t bitten anyone. Roughs up the board. It’s like a canine with a chew, you recognize?” mentioned Jackie Rundell, a Santa Cruz resident who on Wednesday visited the bay.

Southern sea otters, whose inhabitants dwindled to about 50 in 1938, are managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. They’re listed as threatened below the Endangered Species Act and are protected below the Marine Mammal Act and California state legislation.

Now with a inhabitants of about 3,000, sea otters play a elementary position in sustaining wholesome coastal ecosystems by preying on sea urchins that may multiply and eat their means via the kelp forests each marine creatures share, wildlife officers mentioned.

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