A serial surfboard thief has been plaguing a stretch of Californian coastline – and the unlikely culprit is a sea otter.
In at least four separate incidents, the otter has climbed onto surfboards, biting and scratching them.
In some cases, the mammal’s behaviour was so aggressive the surfers had to abandon their boards and swim to shore.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has posted signs along the Santa Cruz coastline warning of an “aggressive sea otter in this area”.
“Enter the water at your own risk,” the sign reads.
Mark Woodward, a photographer who goes by Native Santa Cruz on Twitter and Instagram, has been sharing videos and photos of the sea otter snatching and riding boards.
“This may seem cute and funny, but it’s getting to be dangerous,” he wrote on Instagram.
“I’m afraid that the sea otter, which was born in captivity and released when it was old enough, will have to be captured and live at a rescue sanctuary.”
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The otter, known as 841, was born five years ago to an otter who was also known to approach people on kayaks.
But 841 was raised in captivity, so could not have copied the behaviour from its mother.
Experts don’t have a clear explanation for the behaviour, but the otter may be going through hormonal surges or being fed by humans, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wildlife officials are working with sea otter experts from Monterey Bay Aquarium to attempt to capture and rehome the otter.