Expert answers key questions about infamous Santa Cruz sea otter stealing surfboards

KGO logo
Friday, July 14, 2023
Expert answers key questions about infamous Santa Cruz sea otter
EMBED <>More Videos

U.S. Fish and Wildlife says a 5-year-old otter has become a public safety risk. Kevin Connor from Monterey Bay Aquarium answered some questions.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Wildlife officials are now monitoring and attempting to capture an infamous sea otter who has a thing for surfers.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife says this 5-year-old female otter has repeatedly approached surfers and kayakers.

VIDEO: Infamous Santa Cruz sea otter sought by officials after hijacking surfboards

On Wednesday, a team from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Monterey Bay Aquarium monitored her and attempted to capture her.

Kevin Connor, spokesperson for Monterey Bay Aquarium, sat with ABC7 News and brought clarity to some unanswered questions:

Why is this otter considered a 'public safety risk?'

"This otter is a public safety risk because it is approaching people and behaving in a way that is atypical of other wild otters. Wild otters usually have a very strong survival instinct that gives them a healthy fear of human beings, and they keep their distance... And when we see this type of behavior exhibited by otters, it is a sign that they no longer have that healthy fear of human beings that allows them to stay safe in the wild away from us."

What is this otter's history? Do you know where she was born in captivity?

"This otter has a very interesting history. It goes back to her mom, who was otter 723. The wild otters that end up getting rescued - whether it's the aquarium or another institution or agency - they're numbered because they're going back to the wild. And her mom 723 was rescued in Santa Cruz in 2016 and brought to the aquarium, where she entered our surrogacy program...So 723 was released into Monterey Bay in I think the year following her rescue, and so she was released in 2017.

The following year, there were reports of 723 approaching people on kayaks and boats - and nothing to the extent that we've seen with otter 841 - but enough for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deem this otter 723 as 'non-releasable,' and so a similar effort went into catching 723. And when 723 was recaptured from the wild, it was found she was pregnant, and she was pregnant with 841. So 723 raised 841 for some time in another facility and, at a certain point, they were brought to Monterey Bay Aquarium where 841 was weaned from 723...

And she (841) spent a year in the wild that was uneventful, and lived her otter life in the ocean, until we began to get reports that this otter was approaching people again in Santa Cruz. And at the time, it was not as escalated as it is now. It was an otter, going up to people, being curious about people and not really demonstrating the fear response that you want to see a wild animal have for its own survival. And over time, efforts were taken to stop that behavior to deter that behavior. And ultimately, those weren't successful... So in the interest of the animal's well-being and safety, and the interests of human safety, the decision was made to recapture 841. And that's really where we are right now."

RELATED: Authorities issue warning after aggressive sea otter seen going after surfers in Santa Cruz

We know she will be taken to be examined at Monterey Bay Aquarium, do we know what happens after that?

"After she arrives, our veterinary staff will examine her, hopefully get a clean bill of health. Then the decision-making will begin on where 841 will spend the remainder of her life. Unfortunately, this behavior has not changed. It has escalated and it is not safe for her to be in the wild for her own sake and the sake of people."

Will she most likely have to stay in captivity or are there chances she will be re-released somewhere else?

"So the decision-making will be which zoo or aquarium that can provide the level of care required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for sea otters - which facility will have this space and capacity to take on another southern sea otter in their gallery. The upside here is that outcome is a really good outcome for 841. And it's also a good outcome for the species. Because as an otter exhibit at a zoo or aquarium, 841 would essentially be an ambassador for her species, and would be able to educate the public about the importance of sea otters in the ocean, and why we need them for a healthy ocean."

Why the number 841?

"That is the order that she came through the system of rescuing otters. So we're somewhere in the ballpark, I think of like, under 1,000."

Are there any plans to euthanize 841 if needed?

"That's a question that has to go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I just got a very brief update and right now, euthanization is not under consideration. And euthanization is not being planned."

Watch the full interview in the player above.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live