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California’s Angriest Sea Otter Is a New Mom


Sea otter 841 – the thieving, surfboard-chomping mammal that became a national sensation this summer – has given birth to a fluffy baby.

On Wednesday afternoon, she was seen off the coast of Santa Cruz, rolling and spinning in the kelp and waves with a small otter on her belly.

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Mark Woodward, her No. 1 fan and most devoted columnist, said he first spotted the puppy Tuesday afternoon.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I think I screamed when I saw him.”

A sea otter bites a brightly colored surfboard.

Sea otter 841 chews a surfboard after chasing its owner in July in Santa Cruz.

(Marc Woodward)

Woodward, a social media influencer who goes by the name @NativeSantaCruz on Twitter, Instagram and Threads, said that last Friday, 841 people were swimming, lounging and feeding solo.

The puppy’s birth, which has not yet been officially confirmed by federal and state wildlife officials, could explain 841’s unusually aggressive behavior toward several surfers — at least one who abandoned his board and saw it taken away by the smooth-haired cousin of the skunk and weasel. The gestation period for otters is around six months, and during this time, hormonal changes can make the animal aggressive, experts say.

Emerson Brown, a spokesman for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, said he and the “aquarium team” could not comment on the situation.

He said they had “seen tweets, like everyone else, but couldn’t confirm anything based on these images.” We are awaiting confirmation from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

A spokeswoman for the federal agency said they would deploy someone to the area on Thursday to confirm the puppy’s existence.

“While wildlife biologists suspected sea otter 841 of being pregnant earlier this year, they were unable to verify pregnancy without capturing the sea otter to conduct a full health assessment,” said Ashley McConnell, communications team leader for Ventura Fish and Wildlife Bureau of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Hormonal surges related to pregnancy are known to cause aggressive behavior in female southern sea otters. … No capture attempts are currently planned.”

She had already given birth twice. Her first puppy survived; the second, born this spring, did not.

Gena Bentall, director and senior scientist at Sea Otter Savvy — a local research and environmental organization — said she and her organization “do not participate in or support any media publicity around 841. We do not believe that it is in his best interest.”

A group of people stand on rocks by the ocean and look out to sea. One of them holds a camera to his eyes.

Spectators flocked to the Santa Cruz coast in the summer to catch a glimpse of Sea Otter 841. The creature had been unusually aggressive toward surfers and even stole a board from one.

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

Woodward was not surprised by Bentall’s response. After this summer’s media blitz, he said, he saw several boaters and kayakers harassing the otter, getting too close and potentially stressing it and threatening its safety.

“People need to know that they need to give it space,” Woodward said, citing federal regulations that require boats to keep a distance of 60 feet.

“To give sea otters and their pups the best chance of survival in the wild, it is important that members of the public give them and their pups space, particularly when they are entertaining on the water,” McConnell said, emphasizing that sea otters are protected. by the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and California state law.

She said a violation of these laws could result in penalties including fines of up to $100,000 and imprisonment of up to a year.

Puppy News – which was posted on the site formerly known as Twitter, by Woodward and Dustin Mulvaneyprofessor of environmental studies at San Jose State University, was greeted with astonishment by many.

Zach Friend, a Santa Cruz County supervisor, said, “It’s wonderful to see the expansion of Team Otter. I hope she gets the space she deserves to raise our new and already famous Santa Cruz County resident.

However, Joon Lee, an Apple software engineer from San Jose — whose board was attacked by 841 in July — said that while the news was “astonishing,” he would still want to make sure it had stopped “attacking or taking control of surfboards before going into the water.

Last summer, after being aggressively attacked, he developed a mild case of lutraphobia – a fear of otters – which stifled his desire to surf.

A sign warns swimmers that a "aggressive sea otter" East "in the zone."

A sign warns beachgoers that an aggressive sea otter is “in the area” in July.

(Marc Woodward)

Woodward said he was excited to see 841 raise the little puppy; Since he first spotted it in June, he has become a local expert on sea otter behavior and biology, noting that sea otter mothers must leave their young on the surface of the sea otter. ocean when they dive to the bottom to eat shellfish and other meals.

“Feeding and caring for a puppy requires significant energy reserves,” said McConnell of Fish and Wildlife.

She explained that unlike whales and seals, which have a thick layer of blubber, sea otters rely on their thick fur coats and extremely high metabolic rates to stay warm. The average adult sea otter must actively feed, eating 20 to 30 percent of its body mass in food each day, simply to meet its energy needs.

“This is why it is extremely important for sea otters to conserve energy and why they are often seen resting on their backs on the surface of the water when not feeding – their survival and that of their little ones depend on it,” she said. said.



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