Thanks, El Niño: Venomous Sea Snake Spotted in California

Warmer waters blamed for snake's first appearance in California in 35 years
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 17, 2015 3:32 PM CDT
Thanks, El Niño: Poisonous Sea Snake Spotted in California

Nature giveth, and nature taketh away. In addition to bringing much needed rain to Southern California this winter, El Niño is apparently also a harbinger of something much less desirable: venomous sea snakes. A yellow-bellied sea snake was seen on a beach near Malibu twice this week, Quartz reports. It's the first time since 1980—another El Niño year—the snake has been reported in California. It's also the furthest north the snake has ever been reported along the Pacific Coast, according to the Los Angeles Times. In a Facebook post on the sightings, environmental nonprofit Heal the Bay says the warmer Pacific Ocean waters caused by El Niño—in addition to the rising ocean temperatures brought on by climate change—are likely the reason for the snake's migration.

The state wildlife department was called after the second snake sighting—it's unclear if it was the same snake—Friday, KTLA reports. The snake died soon after, and its body was given to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. According to the Times, the yellow-bellied sea snake lives its entire life in the ocean, so if it's spotted on land it's likely sick or hurt. Beach-goers are warned not to touch the snakes, which Heal the Bay points out are "highly venomous" and descended from Asian cobras and Australian tiger snakes. But the nonprofit helpfully advises there's "no need to panic." (More sea snake stories.)

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