— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) July 19, 2023
Another day another failed attempt to capture sea otter 841. She enjoys long swims on the beach, eating crabs, stealing surfboards and evading Fish and Wildlife.
Read more: https://t.co/3SKgZ73qgw pic.twitter.com/weJ3xs1zgX
— KION News Channel 46 (@KIONnews) July 19, 2023
I’m on Team Otter.
The otter is ungovernable.
A five-year-old sea otter who gained notoriety for commandeering surfboards has continued her reign as a viral sensation as she’s managed to avoid multiple efforts to capture her.
For days, staff with California’s department of fish and wildlife (CDFW) and the Monterey Bay aquarium have attempted to catch otter 841 – but she has given them the slip each time.
The mammal’s actions have delighted online commenters who have cheered her on as she jumps on and off CDFW boards and avoids the nets that staff try to lure her into. But experts emphasize that 841 must be caught for her own wellbeing and safety because she’s been exhibiting worrying behavior for a sea otter in the wild.
“It’s highly unusual behavior,” said Kevin Connor, a spokesperson for the Monterey Bay aquarium. “There are about 3,000 southern sea otters in central California. This is the only incident taking place right now.”
The aquatic mammal rose to prominence for her unusual interactions with surfers. She’s been photographed and filmed atop boards that she’s seized from riders and most recently has been spotted eluding the CDFW’s nets. Photographer Mark Woodward, who goes by Native Santa Cruz on social media, and the environmental studies professor Dustin Mulvaney have been sharing 841’s latest exploits through photos posted to social media.
Otter 841’s online fans describe her as a creature taking ownership of her watery home and avoiding capture because deep down she knows that captivity awaits her. Her antics have even inspired T-shirts and tote bags depicting 841 flying her knubby middle finger.
Connor with the Monterey Bay aquarium, known for its work with otters, says that he is not surprised by 841’s growing cult following nor the fact that people are rooting for her to remain wild and free. Still, he cautions against projecting human values and motivations on to 841, because the behaviors she’s exhibiting are potentially dangerous for her and the humans she meets.
Catching 841 could take weeks, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which is working with the CDFW and the Monterey Bay aquarium to nab the animal. Otters are quick and nimble in the water, making them tough to catch. If water conditions prevent crews from getting 841 or if she stops her behavior, the capture effort will be suspended or called off entirely, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said.
If she is caught, 841 will undergo a medical examination before she’s permanently housed in a zoo or aquarium, where she will become an “ambassador for her species” that teaches the public about otter history and the important role they play in the aquatic ecosystem, Connor said.
A zoo is a prison for otters.
This is one otter who cannot be held by four walls.
I hope she brings down the entire system.
California wildlife officials are hoping to apprehend a 5-year-old sea otter who has a knack for riding the waves after committing longboard larceny. Called Otter 841 by officials, she is well known for both her bold behavior and her ability to hang 10. https://t.co/CvBb3lZjXt pic.twitter.com/I9UAKMCeFK
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 12, 2023
Otter 841 early this afternoon. I’ve never seen a sea otter bring up 2 crabs at once, leave it to 841 to be different! There was another capture attempt shortly after this, but they were once again unsuccessful and left the area pic.twitter.com/EdrsgCWq0z
— Native Santa Cruz (@NativeSantaCruz) July 17, 2023