An otter in Santa Cruz is hassling surfers — and stealing their boards
An aggressive sea otter in California is hassling locals by riding boards she stole from surfers in the lineup.
Steamer Lane is a legendary point break nestled along the rocky shores of Santa Cruz, home to swaths of experienced surfers, as well as a 5-year-old female sea otter with a growing reputation for repeatedly confronting surfers and kayakers.
Onlookers in the videos can be heard laughing in jest at surfer’s misfortune, but officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say the otter poses a public safety risk.
“While there have been no confirmed reports of injury, due to the highly unusual behavior of this otter, kayakers, surfers, and others recreating in the area should not approach the otter or encourage the otter’s interactions,” the USFWS said in a statement.
Sixty-year-old Santa Cruz native and photographer Mark Woodward said he has photographed hundreds of otters over the years, but has never seen something like this. He’s witnessed the otter bully surfers three times in less than a week.
The USFWS said the otter’s behavior is “concerning and unusual,” and though the exact cause is unknown, officials said it could be associated with hormonal surges or being fed by humans.
Southern sea otters are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and are protected under the Marine Mammal Act as well as California law, the USFWS said. After being hunted to near extinction for their fur in the 1700s and 1800s, the population has rebounded since becoming a protected species and is a key predator in California’s coastal ecosystems.
A team from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium is looking for the otter to catch and rehome her.