.Otter Captures National Attention

Sea Otter 841 has made headlines for her interactions with surfers, evades capture

A sea otter at Cowell’s Beach in Santa Cruz garnered headlines around the country for its unusual behavior. 

The otter, identified as Otter 841, has recently taken to climbing aboard unsuspecting surfers’ boards, resisting pleas to move on and even aggressively staking a claim. Caught on video, the otter rolled from the top of the board to the bottom after the surfer, who had crawled into the water, flipped the board over in hopes of shaking the animal loose.

Wildlife officials say the 5-year-old female southern sea otter is exhibiting “concerning and unusual behaviors,” including repeatedly approaching surfers and kayakers. 

Posters have been posted along West Cliff Drive and surroundings that warn of the “aggressive sea otter.” PHOTO: Tarmo Hannula

“Sea otters are naturally wary of people, but this individual has been aggressively approaching people and biting surfboards,” officials say.

“Due to the potential public safety risk, a team from CDFW and the Monterey Bay Aquarium trained in the capture and handling of sea otters, has attempted capture of the sea otter when conditions have been favorable since July 2,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife say. 

On Monday a crew on paddleboards and in a boat gingerly approached the otter who dined on shellfish while keeping a distance from them.


  1. So really..What is the big deal…I live on a farm and around animals a large part of my life…In the greater area were cattle, chickens, sheep, turkeys & hogs…We raised cattle and chickens…Out of the herd or flock you always had 1 or 2 that bucked the crowd of natural running away…I had one hen out of 30 that would follow me around like a pet puppy…We had our registered Hereford breeding bull, all 1700 lbs.liked to be petted like a cat and you could nap on him in the field…Then there was the calf or two that would break away from the herd and follow us around more like curious pets…Odd to the unaware or those making a big deal about it…No harm no foul…

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Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.
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