Heat and drought blamed for increase of leeches at Lake Yosemite

LAKE YOSEMITE, Calif. -- The heat and drought are being blamed for an increase in the presence of leeches in some outdoor swimming areas.

Nancy Tovar and her family came to Lake Yosemite to cool down on a very hot day -- but left the water with little brown leeches stuck to their legs.

Merced County has posted notices near the beach warning about an increase in sightings of leeches in lakes, rivers, and ponds across the state.

Mike Jensen with the Merced Irrigation District said, "They are native to California and to the streams and waterways here so certainly with the drought and warmer waters, I think maybe it's not surprising."

The Merced Irrigation District usually fills this manmade reservoir in the spring by releasing water from Lake McClure to serve its customers, but that wasn't the case this year so there's less space for the leeches to spread out.

Jensen said, "With the drought we just don't have the water to fill the lake that normally would be there this time of the year."

The county even decided not to sell boating passes this summer, and attendance is down nearly 20 percent from the same time last year. But Andy Tolsma says he and his grandsons still love spending time here.

Tolsma said, "It's a hot day, and it's a little cooler here so it's a nice place to be."

Experts say the leeches do not transmit diseases and are relatively harmless, but they can cause small wounds. Officials say the best way to remove a leach is to scrape it off with your fingernail or a credit card. Don't use a flame, salt or chemicals because those can lead to infection.

To learn how much water your city is required to cut back, click here. For water rebate information from Bay Area water suppliers, click here. You'll find tips about how to conserve water here and information on how to to report water wasters #WhereYouLive, here.

For full coverage on the drought, click here.
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