A sea otter is attacking surfers on a beach in Santa Cruz, California, sometimes stealing their surfboards.
The “prisoner” known as “Sea Otter No. 841” is a female, about 5 years old this year, and has a blue tag on her left foot.
Efforts are being made to capture it, however, it escapes time and time again.
One of the unlucky victims was 40-year-old Li Jun, who had encountered sea otters before while surfing. These animals have round faces, black bean-like eyes, and diamond-shaped noses. They often lie on the sea and sleep, and they look very peaceful and friendly.
Until he met No. 841.
Li Jun was surfing for about an hour and a half that day, and then he noticed a sea otter suddenly appeared and swam towards a surfer. “At first, we thought, ‘Look, how cute!’ But then it bit. The sea otter then turned its attention to
Li Jun and swam toward him.
Li Jun panicked. “I was scared. I tried to swim away, but before I could swim away, it bit my leg rope.” One end of the rope was tied to the surfboard, and the other end was worn by the surfer around his ankle. This allows the surfer to quickly retrieve the board even if he drops it.
Next, No. 841 started biting the surfboard. Li Jun tried to turn the surfboard over and let the sea otter fall into the water, but the sea otter quickly pounced on him again.
Li Jun eventually made it to shore, but was exhausted and left with psychological problems – he said he might never surf again, and he now has a phobia of sea otters.
Photographer Mark Woodward said he heard about sea otters snatching surfboards last year, but the situation seemed to be getting worse this year. On June 19, while filming surfers, he witnessed the attack of No. 841 – it rushed towards the frightened surfers like a torpedo and snatched the surfboard from the surfer’s hands. After that, Woodward saw at least three more raids by No. 841, and he felt that No. 841 seemed to be getting more aggressive.
No. 841 is a southern sea otter, also known as the California sea otter. This subspecies lives on the coast of central California and is an endangered animal. There are currently about 3,000 in the wild.
Normally, sea otters rarely interact with humans. Ecologist Tim Tinker said the animals have an innate fear of humans and will often go to great lengths to avoid us.
Female sea otters weigh between 14 and 33 kilograms. Although they look cute, they still have the bite force that a predator should have – the bite force of sea otters is about 3.8 times that of humans and can crush clams, bones and the like.
The staff of the wildlife protection department felt that No. 841 could no longer be left in the wild. Things were becoming increasingly out of control. Whether it harmed humans or humans harmed it, it was a tragedy.
No. 841 was not so aggressive from the beginning.
Monterey Bay Aquarium staff still remembers his mother, No. 723. In a sense, No. 841 repeated its mother’s fate.
In 2016, the Monterey Bay Aquarium rescued a sea otter pup that was separated from its mother and was only about 7 weeks old. The aquarium named it No. 723 and raised it until 2017 before releasing it into the wild. However, around 2018, the aquarium began to receive reports of No. 723 boarding boats and kayaks. It may be because people have been feeding it food such as squid, which led it to believe that humans are a food source and that it is too close to humans. near.
For its safety and that of humans, No. 723 was captured again. A subsequent evaluation determined that No. 723 was not suitable for living in the wild, so it was sent to another aquarium for placement.
At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, researchers discovered that No. 723 was pregnant with a baby. Soon, a sea otter pup was born – No. 841. No. 841 grew up with its mother until weaning, and then the aquarium kept the cub for a period of time. When it grew healthy enough to survive independently in the wild, it was released into the wild. The blue radio on its left foot emits The instrument is the mark left behind from the beginning.
When No. 841 left the aquarium, everything seemed normal. In fact, there were no problems during the first year in the field.
But something happened later that changed it.
Kevin Connor of the Monterey Bay Aquarium said that since 2021, there have been reports of sea otters harassing kayakers and other sea otters, and aquarium staff believe these incidents may all point to the same sea otter.
The “perpetrator” is likely No. 841, who was released into the wild in June 2020.
After No. 841 was released into the wild, the aquarium was still able to track it because it carried a radio transmitter, and it showed no signs of interaction with humans before the surfboard incident. It looked like everything was normal. Like other sea otters, it floated on the sea every day, eating and sleeping. It gave birth to children twice. The first offspring born in May 2022 survived, and the second offspring was born this spring and did not survive.
Since early July, the Fish and Wildlife Management Department has issued a “wanted notice” for No. 841 and formed a sea otter capture team composed of experts.
There have been no reports of No. 841 biting anyone. Currently, No. 841’s favorite thing is surfboards, followed by flippers worn by surfers.
Fish and Wildlife officials said that “even if it harms humans, euthanizing No. 841 is not an option.”
If No. 841 can be caught, he will likely be sent to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where he will undergo a physical examination and monitoring and evaluation, and then be sent to other aquariums to live out the rest of his life.
No. 841 won’t be caught that easily.
Generally speaking, the common way to catch sea otters is “secret underwater capture”, that is, sneaking up on sea otters from underwater, taking advantage of them when they are not prepared, and quickly catching them with a net.
The mission to capture No. 841 went very unsatisfactory, mainly because of the poor visibility under water recently, No. 841’s behavior pattern changes every day, and No. 841 is very wary of catching nets.
Colleen Young, a member of the sea otter capture team, said: “I’m very frustrated and exhausted… We need to develop a capture strategy based on the behavior of No. 841 in advance, because there are different experts in the team, and each one is good at different strategies. But No. 841’s behavior has been changing, whether during activity or rest.” On
July 15, the staff of the capture team came face to face with No. 841, but still failed to capture it.
As No. 841 became more and more famous, it already had a group of supporters.
Local surfer Joseph Wilcox held up a sign that read “Keep 841 Free.” He said: “Every time humans encounter some unique wild animals, they have to put them in cages and send them somewhere… The sea is the home of No. 841, and it is also our home. We can share the sea together. , but of course, be careful of sea otters.”
But Yang believes that No. 841 must be captured, “The ocean is its home, humans are just visitors, but unless everyone is willing to stay away from the sea – which is unlikely – capturing it is our responsibility The only way to solve this problem.”
Sea otter conservation expert Lillian Caswell said: “It is very important to always keep a safe distance from all wildlife. People should not interact with or feed wild animals, which may put yourself or the animal at risk.”