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WORLD

Resident: Snake attack a 'most frightening experience'

Tuesday, November 8, 2005; Posted: 1:10 p.m. EST (18:10 GMT)

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Nigerian Red Banded Saltwater Marsh Snake (file photo).
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Bolsa Chica, California (Reuters) -- Residents of the beachside community of Huntington Beach, California see firsthand the danger that exists by the recent discovery of Nigerian Red Banded Saltwater Marsh snakes found in nearby Bolsa Chica

A large colony of Nigerian Red Banded Saltwater Marsh Snakes has been discovered living along the south end of the Bolsa Chica wetlands at the location of the new jetty.

The construction crews have lost a couple of workers in recent weeks to these exotic, highly poisonous sea snakes.

They are not native to the area, and are believed to have been released into the marsh approximately 8 years ago by illegal exotics traders. The population remained relatively undisturbed and undiscovered until the construction of the new jetty wiped out their habitat at the south end of the marsh. Fiercely territorial, they are now on a rampage throughout the whole marsh. Estimates have their numbers in the thousands and authorities have determined that eradication will be impossible. They have installed underwater screens at the flood control channel and tidal gates to prevent their spread northward into Huntington Harbor.

Local authorities are contemplating a measure which would prohibit in-water activities within 200 yards of the flood control channel.

While living undisturbed, in brackish water, these snakes are relatively docile, feeding on birds and fish, and the occasional rabbit or fox that ventures too close to the waters edge. Once their habitat is disturbed, and a fresh supply of salt water is provided, they become quite voracious, attacking anything that moves. This is what happened to the construction workers that were working in shallow water along the new jetty. This aggressive behavior has also been reported by swimmers and bathers in their native lands along rivermouths and estuaries. They are especially aggressive during tidal swings, with the influx of fresh salt water appearing to trigger the attack instinct.

These snakes seldom venture very far out to sea, usually patrolling and feeding within 100 yds of a rivermouth or tidal inlet, so authorities aren't concerned about the spread of these snakes along the shoreline and are considering closing the beach to all water entry 200 yds north and south of the new jetty and 200 yds offshore as a preventive measure to serious injury.

Copyright 2005 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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