State and federal wildlife officials are trying to capture a brazen young sea otter that has been harassing surfers and kayakers around Santa Cruz for more than two weeks.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife have teamed up with the Monterey Bay Aquarium on bringing in the mischievous marine mammal, a 5-year-old southern sea otter who has been “exhibiting concerning and unusual behaviors,” according to CDFW officials.

“The goal is the safe capture of this female sea otter to remove the potential public safety risk while also recognizing and acknowledging the important role sea otters play in coastal ecosystems along the Central California coast,” said Lilian Carswell, southern sea otter recovery and marine conservation coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The otter in question has made national headlines in recent days following several videos of her climbing onto surfboards and appearing to claim them as her own, even going so far as to gnaw on them a bit.

Scientists have been able to track her movements because she was born in captivity and tagged with a radio transmitter, but thus far she has eluded capture, due in part to murky water conditions, the fact that she has become wary of nets from previous capture efforts and her unpredictable behavioral patterns.

Wildlife experts predict she could remain on the lam for several days or even weeks, according to CDFW officials.

Book ’em, Danno

Once brought to heel, the offending otter, dubbed “Sea Otter 841,” will be taken back to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, given a check-up and eventually placed in a zoo or aquarium.

“Euthanasia and other lethal methods are not under consideration,” CDFW officials said in a news release Friday.

“Although this otter was born in an animal care facility, she was raised by her mother with minimal human contact,” said Jess Fujii, sea otter program manager with Monterey Bay Aquarium. “When she was released, she was monitored by wildlife biologists. This otter behaved like a typical otter in the wild for over a year before interactions with people began.”

The adorable rogue’s first foray into the outlaw lifestyle was recorded in September 2022, when she was successfully “hazed” by CDFW and aquarium staff, after which she reportedly steered clear of people until her recent misadventures.

“When she was released, she was monitored by wildlife biologists. This otter behaved like a typical otter in the wild for over a year before interactions with people began.”

Jess Fujii, Monterey Bay Aquarium sea otter program manager

“While the exact cause for this sea otter’s behavior is unknown, aggressive behavior in female southern sea otters may be associated with hormonal surges or due to being fed by humans,” Fujii said.

Once nearly hunted to extinction for their thick fur, southern sea otters are protected under the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and California law.

Since gaining legal protections in the 1970s, their population has grown to about 3,000 in recent years, according to CDFW.

Wildlife officials say people and pets should never approach or interact with otters, never feed them and keep a safe distance.

To report a human-sea otter interaction, call the Monterey Bay Aquarium at 831-648-4840.

Kiley Russell writes primarily for Local News Matters on issues related to equity and the environment. A Bay Area native, he has lived most of his life in Oakland. He studied journalism at San Francisco State University, worked for the Associated Press and the former Contra Costa Times, among other outlets. He has covered everything from state legislatures, local governments, federal and state courts, crime, growth and development, political campaigns of various stripes, wildfires and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.