Southern California environment news and trends

US heat wave could lead to pest population explosion

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Trebol-a/Flickr

The heat wave currently gripping the globe is resulting in a myriad of less than welcome side effects, including withering corn crops in Europe, glacial flooding in Greenland to even death in the Midwest. There's more: According to the National Pest Management Association, the soaring, dry temperatures are ideal for America to see a boom in pest populations. 

“Insects are cold-blooded, which means that their body temperatures are regulated by the temperature of their environment,” said Missy Henriksen, the vice president of public affairs for the NPMA. “In cold weather, insects’ internal temperatures drop, causing them to slow down. But in warm weather, they become more active. Larvae grow at a faster rate, reproduction cycles speed up and they move faster.“

Which means perfect conditions for a host of pests including fleas, ticks, termites, mosquitoes, brown recluse and black widow spiders and scorpions to flourish in the coming weeks. What’s worse, the hot, dry temperatures will eventually drive those pests to seek out moisture and cool places to dwell — like homes.

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Coyotes overrun Carson mobile home park

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Manfred Werner/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

What sounds like a man versus nature horror story is a terrifying reality for a mobile home community in Carson that’s being terrorized by a growing population of wild coyotes.

According to the Daily Breeze, residents of the Carson Harbor Village mobile home park are afraid to venture outside of their homes, especially with pets, of which almost two dozen have been attacked, injured or killed in less than a year.

“We are infested. We're prisoners in our own homes,” said Carson Harbor Village resident Luris Bell to the Daily Breeze. “We are living in a living hell in the park right now. (Coyotes) have multiplied and walk our streets day and night. They jump our fences. They kill our family pets. They destroy the quality of our lives.”

The owner of the park has refused to allow the city to trap coyotes on the property due to liability issues and protests from animal activists. City Council is currently considering legal options that would force the park owner to allow such trapping.

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Rattlesnake bites on the rise across California

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Photo by Natalie McNear via Flickr Creative Commons

It was just this past May when we were reporting that California’s rattlesnake season started early this year, with a good chance of larger population numbers. Now we’re learning that there has been a steep increase of rattlesnake bites across the state over the spring, up almost 50 percent from the same time last year.

According to the Marin Independent Journal, 184 rattlesnake bites were reported to the state Poison Control System between April and June of this year, compared to 124 in the spring of 2011. On average, there are about 300 rattlesnake bites reported to California Poison Control annually.

Just last week in Mission Viejo, a 6-year-old boy suffered an especially toxic bite from a Mojave Green rattlesnake near Camp Pendleton, and is still recovering.

“Rattlesnakes are more like us than we think,” said Katie Colbert of the East Bay Regional Park District to the Independent Journal. “They like to go out in good weather. They get grumpy in hot weather. They want food, shelter, family and to avoid predators, but they will strike out if they feel threatened.”

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Wily ways: Two Palm Desert women bitten by urban coyotes in 10 days

When a 69-year-old woman was bitten on the back of the leg by an “urban” coyote during a routine morning walk through her Palm Desert neighborhood, it marked the second such incident in the area in less than two weeks.

"I looked, and I said 'Oh my goodness,' and there he stands, very calm, nonchalant," said Amy Williams to ABC7.com of her confrontation with the wild animal after feeling something hit her leg during the pre-dawn stroll. "Not afraid of me at all. I think I was a little more nervous than he was."

Another human-coyote encounter occurred in the area recently when a woman, also 69 years old, was bitten while working in her backyard on June 14.

"The first lady was just gardening and it was in the evening. The coyote bit her. She thought she had gotten poked by a cactus in her garden," said John Welsh, Riverside County Animal Services spokesman to ABC-7.

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Rattlesnake season arrives early in the Southland

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David McNew/Getty Images

Now that spring is in full swing and the unofficial arrival of summer is upon us with Memorial Day weekend, outdoor enthusiasts aren’t the only ones getting an early start on sun-kissed activities. According to the L.A. Zoo and California Poison Control System, the local rattlesnake population is coming out of hibernation early this year, with the potential of a larger snake infestation than usual.

“Fatality, loss of limb, some really severe injuries, medical procedures are necessary to save limbs and life,” said Fish & Game biologist Kevin Brennan about the grisly results of a rattlesnake bite to CBS Local. Officials estimate that California sees one or two fatal rattlesnake bites annually.

Hikers and anyone spending extended time roaming through brush areas are encouraged to wear long pants that cover shoe tops, and to bypass areas where the ground is not fully visible. With a “bumper crop” of baby rattlesnake births expected this season, don’t think the little ones are any less dangerous. Their venom is just as poisonous.

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