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The Infamous Santa Cruz Sea Otter Is Back and Ready to Snack (on Surfboards)

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An otter on its back, mouth agape in foamy sea water.
Otter 841 rose to notoriety last summer after terrorizing surfers along the Santa Cruz coastline. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Just when you thought it was safe to to go back in the the water, she’s returned!

Otter 841, the subversive sea mama with a surfboard vendetta has been spotted again in the waters of Santa Cruz after a five-month hiatus. In a move that was entirely on brand, she reemerged on Saturday afternoon during a surf competition. One minute, Karl Anderle was sitting on his board, quietly keeping recreational surfers out of the competition zone. The next, 841 was behind him, lurking on the back of his board and visibly plotting her next move.

“I’m going over in my mind what I should do,” Anderle, 69, told The Mercury News. “I didn’t really want her to bite me. I didn’t want to be that guy fighting an otter in the middle of a surf contest.”

As 841 began indulging in her favorite pastime — using the nearest surfboard as a chew toy — Anderle opted to slide into the water and wait it out. Despite attempts to tip 841 back off his board and into the water, the six-year-old sea menace stayed put for a full 15 minutes.

A man in a wetsuit sits on a white surfboard facing a large sea otter floating on its back.
Otter 841 facing off with a surfer at Steamer Lane along the Santa Cruz coastline in July 2023, when she first rose to fame. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Otter 841 achieved worldwide notoriety last summer after attacking surfers, stealing surfboards and generally seeking revenge against all aquaphiles. The still-extremely-cute marine mammal evaded repeated attempts to capture her, having learned how to outwit humanity while being reared, first, at the UC Santa Cruz Research Center and then at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, from whence she was released.

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After 841 showed up in October with a tiny pup in tow, it was hypothesized that maybe her prior bad acts were simply the result of raging pregnancy hormones. (Relatable!) Her reappearance, however, suggests she’s still keen to snack on surfboards, or at the very least steal a seat on them. Otter 841 can be identified by her blue tracking tag. She should be considered armed (with tiny teeth) and likely to embarrass any humans in her vicinity.

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