Santa Cruz Otter Violently Protests Against Wavestorms, Tech Dorks, And Coastal Gentrification - Stab Mag

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Once hunted nearly to extinction, there now are an estimated 3,000 of these bad boys (and girls) in California. Framegrab: Mark Woodward

Santa Cruz Otter Violently Protests Against Wavestorms, Tech Dorks, And Coastal Gentrification

Wildlife authorities are trying to apprehend an aggressive otter who’s fighting for local rights.

elsewhere // Jul 12, 2023
Words by August Howell
Reading Time: 2 minutes

True story: A friend of mine once dreamt he was attacked by a sea otter in his bed. 

Naturally, I laughed at him and his ridiculous phobia. Otters are cute and would never hurt anybody. I brushed his concern aside like slick kelp. 

But then things started happening.

Last year, a pregnant otter spooked a surfer off their Wavestorm at the Lane. And this past week, that same otter has returned for more blood and foam. Santa Cruz photographer Mark Woodward told ABC 7 News there there have been three encounters in the last five days, each one increasingly more aggressive.

The otter has chewed on multiple ‘storms and caused one surfer to ditch his board, leaving the marine mammal alone out the back. This in itself is a remarkably rare occurrence in the middle of summer in Santa Cruz (for humans and otherwise).

The sea otter proceeded to get the set of the day.

Making matters more intricate, otters are considered an endangered and protected species in California. But things have gotten so bad that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has posted flyers around Steamer Lane warning surfers about the creature’s violent tendencies. 

According to USFWS, the perpetrator was born in captivity after her mother was taken out of the wild for similarly aggressive behavior. The younger otter was tagged on its left fin when released, which is how they’re able to ID her today.

Experts have suggested the five-year-old female could be acting up due to hereditary factors, perhaps because she’s accustomed to humans feeding her, or simply because her hormones are surging.

We’d like to propose an alternative theory — the otter is sick of tech industry dorks taking up space in Santa Cruz’s already crowded lineups and riding improper equipment at the Lane, putting themselves and others in peril.

Regardless of her reasoning, the otter is currently on the run from state authorities, who are actively searching for her. If found, the otter may be apprehended and relocated — just like Silicon Valley expats relocated generations of Santa Cruzians by buying up coastal real estate during the pandemic.

Much like when Paul Evans tracked down the elusive El Niño, I hope Stab’s premier Eurospondent can score an exclusive interview with this furry renegade who’s courageously protesting coastal gentrification.


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