Surfing Sea Otter

Surfing Sea Otter

Around the Bluhmin’ Town


Judy Bluhm

Oh, Surfing Sea Otter, please stop stealing surfboards! It will not end well for you. Yes, a female sea otter in California seems to be hassling surfers at Steamer Lane, the legendary point break nestled along the rocky shores of Santa Cruz. This is where experienced surfers love to ride the waves. Now, an otter is hoisting herself up on their boards, causing the stunned surfers to surrender the boards altogether. This is longboard larceny!

At first it was laughable. Surfers are being bossed around by an otter! But then U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stepped in and said this is “not funny.” The officials call her Otter 841, a five-year-old otter unafraid of humans. Divers and a “bait board” have been used to try to capture the otter, for safety reasons. So far, seven divers have spent days being led around the ocean by a swift surfing otter that they have failed to catch (or outsmart). A local official stated that the otter is “quite talented at evading capture.” Otters do not want to be captured!

The back story of sea otters is that there were hundreds of thousands of them roaming California’s coastal waters, but they were hunted to near extinction when colonists moved to the West Coast. In 1911 a hunting ban was put in place and now only about 3000 otters remain. Usually, otters will go to great lengths to avoid humans. But they share the ocean with paddle boarders, kayakers, swimmers and surfers. Contact happens.

Otter 841 was born in captivity in the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Her caretakers took measures to prevent the otter from associating with humans and she was released into the wild. All was fine for a few years, until surfers reported that an “aggressive otter” was engaging with them. It appears that this little otter’s days of freedom are numbered. Back to captivity she will go.

Remember Freya, the 1,300-pound walrus in Norway that loved to boost herself up on small boats to sun herself? She became a celebrity. People (often messing things up for nature) were trying to swim and taking selfies with Freya, and even joined her shenanigans by jumping onto strange boats. Well, tragically, Freya was euthanized by the head of the Fisheries department as a “measure of safety.” A statue has been erected in honor of Freya in Oslo. I bet she would rather be alive.

Listen up Surfing Otter. The authorities are looking for you. They claim the goal is not euthanasia, unless you bite a swimmer. Okay, life at the Aquarium, a beautiful place worth visiting, sounds better than Freya’s fate.

Sometimes, creatures in the wild do things that we humans don’t like. There is a prison in India designed for “rogue monkeys.” One “drunk monkey” was locked up because he stole food from children and assaulted 250 people in one year! Evidently, he had been a pet and his owner gave him alcohol to drink, and the “attacks” were done while he was drunk. Why not lock up the owner too?

On an otter note, wildlife and humans often don’t mix well. Swim away Otter 841.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor. Contact Judy at [email protected] or

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