Tuesday 22 December 2015

Rare, venomous sea serpent washes ashore on California beach

DECEMBER 21, 2015

by Chuck Bednar

For the second time in eight weeks, a rare and venomous sea serpent has washed up on a local California beach, as wildlife rescue team members last week found a snake that had only been seen in the state on two other occasions, various media outlets are reporting.

According to ABC News and the Los Angeles Times, individuals affiliated with the Surfider Foundation came across the 27-inch long, male yellow bellied sea snake during a campaign to clean up Bolsa Chica State Beach, a waterfront located 30 miles south of Los Angeles.

One of those previous encounters came earlier this year, when a two-foot long yellow bellied sea snake was found on Silver Strand State Beach in Ventura County in October. That serpent ended up dying shortly after being transported to a nearby US Fish and Wildlife Service facility.

As for the snake discovered last week, reports indicate that it was already dead by the time the cleanup crew members found it. While it typically lives several hundred miles south of where it was found, experts believe the reason that it ventured north was due to El Nino.

Our snake expert, Lisa Powers, weighed in on why the snake had ventured so far. "While it is not a frequent visitor to the California coast, the yellow-bellied sea snake is a common resident of warm tropical waters throughout the Pacific. It is a pelagic species and even gives birth in the sea. With the occurrence of warmer waters and particularly with an increase in the frequency of El Niño weather patterns, they are likely to be more frequent visitors.

Although these snakes are venomous, they are not considered a threat to humans who leave them alone. They have small mouths and like the vast majority of snakes, sea snakes will only bite in self-defense."

El Nino likely the root cause of its migration northward

The snake, whose official species name is the Pelamis platura, was originally seen in Southern California during an El Nino event in 1972. In both that case and the more recent sighting, they likely traveled northward because of the warmer-than-usual water in the region.

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