Update 12/21: If the recent cold weather in Southern California wasn't enough encouragement to stay away from the beaches, this definitely is—another yellow-bellied sea snake was found last week in Huntington Beach, according to the LA Times. The snake was 27 inches long and found dead. An expert reassured the Times that this isn't an invasion and "no one has ever died from the bite of this animal," but it is worth pointing out that this particular species of snake was first spotted in Southern California during an El Niño in 1972. So nobody freak out. Everybody stay calm. Who's freaking out? We're definitely not freaking out.
Previous report 10/19: Step aside, Sharknado, there’s a new catastrophic storm/animal hybrid about to hit the mainstream: we give you, the El Niño yellow-bellied sea snake! So it’s not quite as catchy, but unlike Sharknados, these things are real.
Last week, a few beach-goers near Oxnard spotted a 2-foot-long, venomous, dark brown, slithery snake with a yellow stripe going down its side. The creature of nightmares has since been identified as a yellow-bellied sea snake and apparently, thanks to El Niño, there could be more nearby. The people who initially spotted the snake watched it wash back into the ocean, never to be seen again... until... Friday!
A man named Bob Forbes was at the beach in Oxnard when he found—wait for it—the same snake, that is, according to Greg Pauly, assistant curator of Herpetology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Forbes told ABC News that he didn’t want the snake to hurt anyone so he did what any over-protective, somewhat insane gent would do: he put it in a bucket and brought it to his home. Pauly was on his way to pick up the snake, but before he got there, the snake died. Apparently, it had been sick.
Thanks to the warm water brought in by the impending El Niño, Pauly said there are probably more the snakes off the coast of California right now. And there’s a good chance that we could see more wash ashore. If you do see one, he says to take a picture.
While we probably don’t want to be running around throwing the snakes into buckets, Pauly says not to worry—the snakes rarely inject a lethal dose of venom since their mouths are small and really intended for fish.