California is facing an onslaught of snakes, as well as other critters, as it experiences historic drought conditions that are increasingly driving wildlife into human inhabited areas.
Much of the US west is currently undergoing a record heatwave and its worst drought in at least 20 years, with temperatures soaring into the triple digits this weekend, and wildlife experts are saying the extreme weather is creating the perfect conditions for increased interactions between humans and animals.
Rattlesnakes, in particular, have been seen moving into urban areas in larger numbers, and are being found on porches, yards, nearby pools and under children’s play equipment.
Snake removal expert Lem Ramirez says he has been busier than ever before since opening his business in 1985.
California removal expert Lem Ramirez (pictured) says this season has been the busiest he’s ever been, with rattlesnake sightings becoming increasingly common amid a record drought in the state
A rattlesnake Ramirez had recently relocated. He said on some jobs he has found up to 60 snakes
‘Rattlesnakes are becoming more common in the places where we live, work and play,’ he told the Guardian.
Ramirez says he doesn’t think there are more rattlesnakes than before, instead he believes they are seeking refuge in urban areas from the extreme weather.
Their appearance has become so commonplace he warned parents to check for the snakes every time their children go outside.
‘I always remind parents to be a good scout before your kids go out to play,’ he said.
Ramirez said he has had some jobs in which he has removed up to 60 snakes.
Ramirez said the rattlesnakes are likely being drawn to urban areas as weather conditions become more extreme in the wild. He checked a rock wall near a parking lot for snakes
Rattlesnakes are increasingly being found on porches, in backyards, near pools and under children’s play equipment as they try to escape the extreme dry of the wild
Snakes aren’t the only animals seen encroaching into urban areas.
California’s black bear population has exploded in recent years with the extinction of the grizzly bear population in the state.
As human habitats expand, and the natural environment becomes more extreme, interactions have become more common.
‘In the urban areas, we have 24/7 access to food, water and shelter, and if you think about it in the wild, a bear might give birth to one or two cubs and those cubs may not survive until adulthood because their resources are limited,’ Rebecca Barboza a wildlife biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told ABC 7. ‘But in the urban area, their resources are basically unlimited, so the bears are able to give birth to multiple cubs and those cubs survive to adulthood.’
Much of the US west is in the midst of historic drought conditions, which have the consequence of driving wildlife into urban areas
The current drought season is far worse than last year’s
Just earlier this month a teenager in Bradford, California could be seen fending off a bear that had been menacing her dogs in a viral TikTok video.
Seventeen-year-old Hailey Morinico later said that while this encounter was far closer than others, bear sightings were common in her area around that time of year.
The heat and dry weather have also been driving a potentially deadly combination of birds and mosquitos into urbanized areas as the critters seek moisture currently absent from the wild.
Together they bring the threat of West Nile virus, which can in some cases be fatal.
Already scientists are warning that the increasingly extreme climate in southern California may trigger more West Nile outbreaks, according to a 2020 study by the University of California, Berkeley, as the birds, which carry and disease and the mosquitoes that transmit it to humans are driven to the cooler and wetter communities along the coast.
Snakes are the only creatures encroaching on human inhabited territory. Earlier this month a California teenager could be seen pushing a brown bear that had been menacing her dogs in her back yard
‘Because there’s limited water in the environment and everything is dry, the birds go looking for water and refuge,’ entomologist Cameron Webb told the Guardian. ‘You get this combination of factors that means not only are conditions suitable for mosquitoes, but also the birds that carry the virus are more likely to be in higher concentration closer to where people live.’
Currently the area is experiencing historic drought conditions, with some experts saying it could be on the way to becoming the worst in 1,200 years.
‘This doesn’t bode well, in terms of what we can expect with wildfire and the worsening drought,’ Kathleen Johnson, an associate professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine told The Guardian.
‘This current drought is potentially on track to become the worst that we’ve seen in at least 1,200 years,’ she said.
In addition to driving wild life into human inhabited areas, the extreme conditions could put the area on track for another devastating wildfire season.
Last year 4million acres burned in California and 1.07million in Oregon, with roughly 713,000 in Washington.
The record blazes killed at least 47 people and destroyed 13,887 buildings.
A deadly ‘heat dome’ has settled over Pacific Northwest spiking record breaking 113F temperatures
This map shows how temperatures have increased across the entire country since 1970. Wildlife experts have said the warming temperatures are increasingly driving critters into human inhabited areas, where water and food are more abundant
Already fires have broken out in Arizona and Utah, according to Daniel Swain a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
‘This is really, really bad. Here on the eastern side of the Rockies, here in Boulder, we’re seeing record high temperatures,’ he told The Guardian. ‘That’s the case in other parts of the state and in other states.’
‘The fires we saw in the last couple of years were really awful, and this year it seems like we’re on that same trajectory,’ he added. ‘It kind of feels like deja vu.’
Heat waves are also becoming more frequent, longer and intense, with the Environmental Protection Agency tracking an average six heat waves per year in the US, compared to around two in the 1960s, and lasting around a day longer.
The threat of water shortages is also elevated, with California Gov. Gavin Newsom already declaring drought emergencies in 41 of California’s 58 counties as its reservoir supplies dwindle.
Water levels have plummeted in California’s largest reservoirs. Lake Mead (above) is seeing its lowest water levels this year since it was filled in the 1930s with the construction of the Hoover Dam
Lake Oroville, the state’s second largest reservoir is also seeing alarmingly low water levels, which have the additional consequence of hampering power generation at the hydroelectric plants that rely on their water for generation
The water level at Lake Mead, the state’s largest reservoir, which supplies water to some 25 million Californians is at its lowest level since it was filled in the 1930s with the construction of the Hoover Dam, CNN reported.
Lake Oroville, the state’s second-largest reservoir is in a similar situation and has dropped to ‘alarming levels,’ according to a Californian Energy Commission spokeswoman, and could spell the closure of the Edward Hyatt hydroelectric plant, which uses the lake’s water to generate electricity for around 800,000 California residents, if it drops any further.
Currently, the Hyatt plant is projected to close in two to three months, if the water levels at Oroville continue to drop, which would coincide with the hottest months of the summer, CNN also reported.
With hydroelectric power supplying around 13% of the state’s electricity, the drought conditions could exacerbate an already strained power grid.