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EL SERPINTE

Venomous sea snakes are washing up in California for the first time in 35 years

Surfers head for the waves at about the time the effects of a tsunami were expected, at Surfrider Beach in Malibu, Calif., Friday, March 11, 2011.
AP Photo/Reed Saxon
Watch out for snakes, dude.
  • David Yanofsky
By David Yanofsky

Editor of code, visuals, and data

This article is more than 2 years old.

The yellow bellied sea snake usually lives its entire life in the ocean, but unfortunately, we live in unusual times. The serpent was seen at least twice last week in Oxnard, California—a city just north of Los Angeles County’s famous beach-side locale, Malibu.

Rising ocean temperatures and the normal cyclical warming of the Pacific Ocean—known as El Niño—are thought to be driving the snakes to new areas, according to Heal the Bay, a non-profit environmental advocacy group.

The group says this species of snake hasn’t been reported in California since 1980 (during another El Niño period). After Heal the Bay posted information about the snake on its Facebook page, others stepped forward to report their own sightings around the area, in the comments section of the post.

Pelamis platura as the creature is scientifically identified, typically inhabits warm waters. Here’s a handy map from the IUCN Red List, showing in orange where the serpent usually lives.

It is unclear if the two reported sightings were of the same snake or different snakes.

The snake from the second sighting was transported to a US Fish and Wildlife Service’s office nearby and died soon after according to the Los Angeles Times.

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