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Large sea hare slugs washing up on California beaches

Oakland, California – East Bay beaches and waterways are being invaded by large purple blobs. The large blogs are actually harmless slugs, but it’s their size that is unusual.

Known as sea hares, the slugs can reach up to 15 pounds and nearly 3-feet in length. Staff at the East Bay Regional Park District say’s it’s unusual to see them washing up on the shores  this time of year and over such a long extended period of time. Usually, the slugs wash ashore during the summer months.

“We’ve been seeing them wash up since September, going all through the winter and now even more in the spring. So perhaps it is because of the warmer water,” East Bay Regional Park District naturalist Morgan Dill said.

The slugs have been seen in Lake Merritt in Oakland, Crab Cove in Alameda and Miller Knox Regional Park in Richmond. One Alameda resident, Rachly Benitez, said she didn’t know what to make of the slug when she first saw it.

“They were scattered all over the beach over there. Some were alive, some were dead, some were in the seaweed. They were kind of cool looking. But then it was kind of weird because I’m like, what’s going on with our water,” she said.

Dill says the sea slugs are purple because they’re full of ink and they’re not harmful to people.

The sea hare slugs are only one of many creatures mysteriously washing up on shores. The area has experience a number of beached whales as well as thousands of tuna crabs. One researcher says that the crabs may be linked to the El Niño effect.

Dill says that residents can actually help scientists gather data: “Participate in citizen science projects and report these things when you see them, so we can see if there are any cyclical changes that are happening.”


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