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Surfboard stealing sea otter returns, officials tell public to keep distance

By Ricardo Tovar

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    SANTA CRUZ, California (KSBW) — The pirating sea otter who stole the hearts of people around the world has seemingly returned after months of avoiding the public eye.

Otter 841 was the hit of the summer in 2023. The aggressive sea otter was seen on video plundering surfboards. All while avoiding capture from California Fish and Wildlife.

She had people flocking to Santa Cruz to catch sight of her. She had merchandise, she got her own ice cream flavor and a movie made to commemorate her rebellious spirit.

The infamous sea otter has been spotted recently over the last few days. Several people reported seeing her make an appearance at the Santa Cruz Longboard Union 38th Annual Memorial Day Club Invitational.

Doing what else? Confiscating surfboards.

Local photographer Mark Woodward, or Native Santa Cruz as he is known online, has started documenting her return.

While so far it has been lighthearted and fun. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reminds the public to “give wildlife the space to be wild.”

They want to remind the public to be aware of their surroundings and maintain a safe distance— if a sea otter is looking at you, you are too close, keep kayaks 60 feet apart and never feed the sea otters.

The following tips were also provided by fish and wildlife:

If a sea otter approaches your kayak, surfboard or other watercraft: Stay calm. Immediately move away from the sea otter. Do not try to photograph, touch, pet or feed the sea otter.

If the sea otter pursues you or a member of your party: Make yourself large (wave arms, etc.) and noisy. Slap the water with your paddle or hand. Splash water towards the sea otter. Bang on your craft with your paddle or hand.

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