Thirty miles south of Los Angeles, a rare yellow bellied sea snake was found dead on Bolsa Chica State Beach.
The Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group, held their final beach cleanup of 2015 this weekend when one of the volunteers found the dead yellow bellied sea snake on the beach.
Only two other instances of the yellow bellied sea snake washing ashore in California are documented: once on Thanksgiving Day in 1972 when the venomous snake was found on San Clemente Beach, and the second in October 2015.
It’s thought that the two rare appearances this year are a side effect of the El Niño temperature change in the waters off the coast as the sea snakes typically stick to warmer climates near Mexico, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
The yellow bellied sea snakes use their neurotoxic venom to paralyze small fish and eels, which could have led them up the coast to California’s water. Though no human fatalities from their venom are known, they can spend up to three hours underwater at a time and are adept swimmers.
A rare sight in the cooler waters near the United States, it is actually the most widely distributed sea snake, living its entire life in the open sea, and is the only sea snake to reach the Hawaiian Islands.
Who knows what other animals will wash ashore during the El Niño phenomenon, especially near Southern California.