SANTA CRUZ, Calif. Wildlife officials were trying to capture a stray sea otter Thursday that has been struggling with surfboards away from surfers and aggressively approaching kayakers off the coast of Santa Cruz, California.
The 5-year-old female otter has shown aggression toward people for several weeks and poses a risk to public safety, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement.
Videos and photos shared on social media show the marine mammal getting on different surfboards, on at least one occasion biting and tearing off pieces of a board, and aggressively approaching surfers.
A team of wildlife experts from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the nearby Monterey Bay Aquarium were working to capture and relocate the animal, the service said.
«While there have been no confirmed reports of injuries, due to the highly unusual behavior of this otter, kayakers, surfers and others recreation in the area should not approach the otter or encourage otter interactions,» the officer said. USFWS.
Federal wildlife officials said the otter’s behavior is highly unusual and the exact cause of such behavior is unknown. Once captured, the otter will be evaluated by aquarium veterinarians.
«Aggressive behavior in female southern sea otters may be associated with hormonal surges or due to being fed by humans,» federal officials said.
They said it’s not the first time the otter, which was born in captivity and later released into the wild, has shown aggression towards humans. The sea otter was observed with a pup after returning to the Santa Cruz area in May 2022 and exhibited similar aggressive behavior four months later.
In September, a team of California wildlife officials and Monterey Bay Aquarium staff successfully attacked the otter, preventing further incidents over the winter, the USFWS said.
Southern sea otters are listed as federally threatened under the Endangered Species Act and are protected under the Marine Mammal Act and California state law.