The Los Angeles Times reports a surfer found a rare yellow-bellied sea snake on a Ventura County beach, the first time the species was seen in California since 1983. The snake measured two feet long and is generally terrifying.
The Pelamis platurus died shortly after it was found, which is lucky for those who discovered it, as it extremely venomous, containing a potent neurotoxin used to stun its prey.
The snake is typically found in warm, tropical waters off the coast of Africa, Asia, Australia and Central America; it's so rare, in fact, that the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum has added the snake's body to its collection. California is typically too cool for the snake's tastes, but that could be changing.
Greg Pauly, herpetological curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, told the Times the snake probably was drawn out of its normal habitat by the spread of warm water thanks to the El Niño weather pattern.
“There’s probably a lot of them swimming off the coast of Southern California right now,” Pauly told the Times. “That’s because they’re following food sources including small fish and eels in warmer water that currently extends farther than it has in a long time.”
So if you see a black snake with yellow stripes while walking along the California shore, repress the urge to pick it up with a stick. Go with the other instinct and get away from it as quickly as possible.
Patrick Hogan is a reporter for Fusion based out of New York. E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.