Gracias Por Nada, El Niño! Poisonous Sea Snakes, Hammerhead Sharks Come To California Beaches

Thanks a lot, El Niño! We hadn't seen one of these in over 40 years!
Thanks a lot, El Niño! We hadn’t seen one of these in over 40 years!

*This is what I get for getting all riled up about the king cobra that somebody found under their clothes dryer in Florida last week.

Now, some lucky person walked up on a tropical, highly venomous yellow-bellied sea snake on the beach in California.

Oxnard, California to be exact. It’s just north of the extremely popular Malibu Beach area. And guess which freelance writer was just there last week!

Pelamis platura is the scientific name for the snake. So I could have gone with the cozy headline “Pelamis Platura Arrives In Sunny Southern California”, but that might not have prompted you to read about — and learn how to avoid — these legless devils!


For the record, understand that this sea snake’s venom is ten times more potent than that of the Egyptian cobra.  That’s the snake that scared the stew out of the me and Indiana Jones back in the day.

Where's Han Solo when you need him?
Where’s Han Solo when you need him?

Experts are saying that we can blame El Niño. While we’re waiting for the old boy to bring rain to draught stricken California, he’s warming up the ocean and bringing these serpents farther north than they usually are.

“I didn’t want some young kid not knowing what it was…to pick it up and possibly get injured,” Bob Forbes, who found the snake, told ABC News. So Forbes did what any respectable snake-loving person would have done: he put the two-foot-long snake in a bucket with some sea water and brought it home so “people were safe from it.”

FOR REAL??  If I hadn’t run for the hills, I would have grabbed the first rock I could have found and prayed that there’s a place in heaven for someone who brutally bludgeoned a snake.

After Forbes brought his serpentine buddy home, he called the authorities…


Who you gonna call?
Who you gonna call?

…but the snake soon died. Turns out that since these suckers spend most of their lives in the water, they’re usually sick or dying when they wash ashore.

Several other beachgoers reported seeing one of the sea snakes the day before, but they likely encountered the same one Forbes did…


…and they just decided not to play Dr. Doolittle and bring that MF home with them.

According to Greg Pauly, curator of herpetology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, we haven’t seen one of these wash ashore in over 40 years, and that one came ashore about 100 miles south of Oxnard. This one is “the northernmost sea snake ever documented in the Pacific Coast of North America,” Pauly told CNN. I would never have thought that a sea snake would wash up that far north.”

“Because the water is so warm here now, these snakes can swim, hunt and reproduce just like they could in the northern part of their tropical range,” Dr. Paul Barber, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA, told The Huffington Post. “Simply put, they are here because the warmer El Niño conditions have expanded the range of suitable environmental conditions for this snake. This has also happened with other marine species like hammerhead sharks.”

Uh huh.  As if the SNAKE wasn't enough!  MF-ing El Niño!
As if the SNAKE wasn’t enough! F-ing El Niño!

Barber believes these and other tropical critters will take off when the water cools back down a bit. And he says the snakes aren’t naturally aggressive and will bite only if they’re handled or feeling defensive.

“Our cooling nighttime temperatures could cause these snakes to appear slow and lethargic in the morning,” Barber cautioned. “However, when the snake warms up, they will be able to function fully, so a slow, docile snake in a bucket could turn into a very fast, agitated snake in a bucket relatively quickly with warming temperatures.”

And all of that snake warming in a bucket business would cause THIS writer to kick the proverbial bucket if I ran up on one!

If YOU run across one, the good doctor advises admiring it FROM A DISTANCE and calling wildlife officials.

You can count on the former, at least, Dr. Barber!

This blog was written by the Michael P Coleman, freelance writer, tweeter, and ophidiophobe. His recent trip to the beach in San Diego may be his last until El Niño’s outta there!

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