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

Lauren Martinez Image
Thursday, July 13, 2023
VIDEO: Infamous Santa Cruz sea otter sought after hijacking surfboards
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Wildlife officials are now monitoring and attempting to capture an infamous sea otter in Santa Cruz who has a thing for surfers.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (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.

Officials say while there have been no confirmed reports of injury, the otter is considered a public safety risk.

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.

The swimming culprit is tagged with a radio transmitter.

Photographer Mark Woodward has captured her strong-arm for surfboards from surfers. Out of the hundreds of otters he's photographed, this was is the first to behave as such.

"I've never seen an otter come this close to shore along the cliff here nor get close to surfers, they avoid surfers and humans," Woodward said.

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

Once this forceful otter is captured, officials say she will be examined at Monterey Bay Aquarium and re-homed.

"A surfer's going to get hurt or she's going to bite someone. And if she bites someone, I don't want to know what's going to happen," Woodward said.

Hefti Brunold III captured cellphone video of when San Jose resident Joon Lee's surfboard was attacked by the wanted otter on Sunday.

Lee said he was with a group of surfers. At first she went after other boards, and then eventually his.

"Chewing, biting - tearing it up so I tried to get the otter off the board by flipping it over it actually got on top of the board," Lee said.

VIDEO: Sea otter checks out surfboards at Santa Cruz beach

This was Lee's fourth time surfing. He said the five-minute encounter felt like an hour.

"I was a bit scared and especially after talking about how they have really strong jaws. I knew I had no chance against her if she started attacking me," Lee said.

On Wednesday afternoon locals and people from out of town were enthralled to see the otter so close off the shore. You could hear her crack shells as she ate.

Connecticut resident Olivia Coxon said it's been fun to watch her.

"I was just walking around today and saw all the reporters and I was like- there's no way that this is the infamous otter but - here she is," Coxon said.

MORE: Researchers studying proposal to restore sea otter populations along Northern CA coast

A spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife says as long as conditions are favorable they'll attempt to capture her.

"People are like, 'Just leave it alone, let it be you guys are in its way it's doing its normal thing.' Truth of the matter is it is not normal," Woodward said.

Woodward has been photographing the otter since June.

"I'm kind of involved in it now and I want to see how it turns out at this point," Woodward said.

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