A sea otter famous for swiping boards from California surfers has a new pup in tow.
Otter 841, as she’s been dubbed by wildlife authorities, was spotted floating on her back with her furry charge by photographer Mark Woodward on Tuesday. This marks the otter’s third time giving birth, though one of her previous pups did not survive, according to the Los Angeles Times.
On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a more formal baby announcement.
“Wildlife biologists have confirmed that sea otter 841, the female southern sea otter that gained attention for her unusual behavior approaching surfers in the Santa Cruz area, has given birth to a pup,” the agency said in a statement.
It’s crucial for the health of both 841 and her pup that people leave them alone, the wildlife service emphasized. Sea otters must spend a lot of time resting to maintain their energy reserves, so causing an otter to flee or otherwise avoid a pursuer can have dire consequences.
“Any attempts to approach from the water could be detrimental to the otter’s survival,” the agency said, adding that the mammals are also protected by law under multiple pieces of legislation, including the Endangered Species Act.
Otter 841 shot to fame over the summer after her penchant for forcibly stealing boards from local surfers ― sometimes lunging at them or taking a bite out of a surfboard ― made national news.
Experts had speculated that a pregnancy could be contributing to her behavior, though they didn’t know for sure whether she was with pup.
“Hormonal surges related to pregnancy have been known to cause aggressive behavior in female southern sea otters,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noted in its recent statement.
In July, the USFWS, along with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Monterey Bay Aquarium, began trying to capture 841 and “rehome” her to a zoo or aquarium to live out her days, both for her own well-being and the safety of humans on the water.
But the otter had other plans. She evaded capture for months, gaining more fans on social media the longer she managed to elude authorities. And she may have gotten away for good.
“There are currently no plans to attempt capture of sea otter 841 or her pup,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday.