Blame El Niño for poisonous sea snake found on Ventura County beach

For the first time in 30 years or so, a poisonous sea snake has been spotted on a Southern California beach, drawn far north of its usual habitat by what naturalists think are the warming ocean waters because of El Niño.

A yellow-bellied sea snake, Pelamis platurus, was found Friday at the high tide line at Silverstrand Beach in Ventura County by a surfer, according to officials at the Heal the Bay organization and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

It’s the first known report of the species in Ventura County, and the northernmost record along the Pacific Coast of North America, they reported.

The yellow-bellied sea snake has highly poisonous venom. It usually lives in warm tropical waters, experts said. The last time the snake was spotted in California was in the early 1980s during an El Niño, according to Heal the Bay.

The snake found Friday died shortly after being transported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s office in Ventura.

“The species is entirely aquatic. Seeing a yellow-bellied sea snake wash ashore indicates that the animal is most likely ill or injured,” Greg Pauly, herpetology curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, said in a statement.

Officials are warning the public not to touch such snakes. Instead, they said to take photos and report sightings and locations to iNaturalist and HerpMapper websites.

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