You probably have heard through social media or a fellow concerned surfer that an incredibly venomous sea snake was recently found in Southern California. Well, this is in fact true. Last Friday on October 16, a live yellow bellied sea snake, scientifically known as the Pelamis Platura, was found by beach goers washed up on shore in Oxnard.The Yellow Bellied Sean snake is typically found in warm tropical waters, in areas such as Mexico and and other Central American coasts. Yellow bellied sea snakes typically are around 2 feet long with black on top, brown on bottom and a yellow streak along the side or bottom. Because of the El niño season that brings higher water temperatures, it is no mystery that these snakes are making it this far north.
“These snakes, although highly venomous, are highly unlikely to cause harm to anyone…there are no known deaths from a Yellow Bellied Sea Snake bite.”
In a normal, non-El niño season it is very rare for this this type of sea snake to make it far enough north to Southern California where the waters are typically much colder than down south. In fact the last known sighting of the yellow bellied sea snake this far north was about 30 years ago during another El niño season.
Experts are saying it is quite possible there will be more of these sightings in the weeks or possibly months to come, but THERE SHOULD BE LITTLE CONCERN ABOUT THESE SNAKES.
These snakes, although highly venomous, are highly unlikely to cause harm to anyone. Almost all cases of a yellow bellied sea snake bite are from someone handling the snake. Furthermore, the bite from one of these snakes is unlikely to be lethal because their mouths are so small. In fact, there are no known deaths from a yellow bellied sea snake bite. Because of there small mouths, they are also unlikely to even try to bite a human. They typically go after small fish.
Now that you know there’s no reason to worry about these snakes, click here to see some great Malibu beaches to visit!
In the rare event that you you do come across these snakes, experts have advised to keep your distance and do not try to handle the snakes. Try to take some photos of the snake and if possible contact The Natural History Museum or another wildlife agency to report the sighting.
UPDATE 12/21/15: As predicted earlier in the article, another Yellow Bellied Sea Snake was found washed up on shore in Southern California in Hunting Beach. Unlike the previous snake found in Oxnard, this snake was found dead. Despite the drop in water temperatures Yellow Bellied Snakes appear to still be more north than usual. The snake was found while a large group of volunteers were doing a beach cleaning when one of the volunteers found that snake and put it in a ziplock bag to bring home to identify it. The Museum of Natural History picked the snake up the next week.
Although the volunteers picked up the snake to put in the bag, experts on these snakes advise that although unlikely to be poisoned, people should never try to touch these snakes and are urged to report it.
UPDATE 1/15//16: Yet another Yellow Bellied Snake was found dead, washed up on the shores of Southern California, this time in Coronado. This snake was 20 inches long and was found on Dog Beach at approximately 2:30pm on Tuesday, January 12th.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 23, 2015, and has been updated and revamped for accuracy purposes and comprehensiveness.
Ryan Sarmiento, Social Media and Content Manager