Here’s something else to add to the long list of unexpected side effects of global warming: an influx of highly poisonous snakes off the shores of California. Sounds like something out of a horror film, right? Instead, it’s one of those times when reality imitates art. The increasing warm waters caused by El Niño are bringing the venomous sea snakes to the West coast for the first time in 30 years.
The poisonous sea snakes are common in warmer southern waters off the coast of Mexico, but haven’t been seen in California in decades. As El Niño causes warm waters to travel farther north along the coast, it brings with it an abundance of sea life that isn’t ordinarily found in those areas. On Friday, a yellow and black snake was spotted on Silver Strand Beach in Oxnard in Ventura County by a surfer who said it “looked lethargic.” Later, the 2-foot-long yellow-bellied sea snake was captured and placed in a bucket to protect beach goers. The snake died shortly thereafter.
The snake found in Oxnard was analyzed over the weekend by the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. Although only one snake has been found on the shore, surely there are others swimming among the waves. The yellow-bellied snakes are not typically aggressive, according to Greg Pauly, curator of herpetology of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, but they are highly venomous and to be avoided. Pauly said most bites occur when people try to hold the snakes, and even then, incidents are rare.
Still, the snakes shouldn’t be traveling so far from home.
Images via Goldring-Gund Marine Biology Station and Wikipedia