It has been 30 years since the venomous and potentially dangerous yellow-bellied sea snake was spotted in California.
It’s back; and El Niño may be the cause.
At least one yellow-bellied sea snake was spotted recently at Silver Strand Beach near Oxnard, KTLA 5 reports.
Anna Iker reported seeing the snake on Oct. 15, and fellow area resident Robert Forbes saw it on Oct. 16 at the same beach. It is unknown whether they saw the same snake, or two different ones.
Photo Credit: Robert Forbes via KTLA 5
Photo Credit: Anna Iker via KTLA 5
Forbes contacted the state wildlife department but the snake had died by the time they arrived to the beach. It was taken to the Museum of Natural History of Los Angeles, Forbes said.
The yellow-bellied sea snake lives its entire life in the ocean, and typically in warmer tropical waters. But Heal the Bay believes El Niño, the cyclical weather pattern that raises the sea-surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean, is the cause for its re-appearance in California.
“The Yellow-bellied Sea Snake has some of the most poisonous venom in the world, and is a descendant from Asian cobras and Australian tiger snakes,” Heal the Bay’s senior coastal policy manager Dana Murray wrote on the organization’s blog.
“The last time the yellow-bellied snake was spotted in California was in the early 1980’s during an El Niño … As the yellow-bellied sea snake is highly venomous, the public should not handle it,” Murray wrote.
There were two sightings in the 1980s, and before then it had not been seen in California since 1961, reports CaliforniaHerps.
The yellow-bellied sea snake can be between 10 to 45 inches long, and has a flattened body and tail to enable swimming with small fangs on the front of its upper jaw.
It is considered dangerously poisonous to humans, but is known to not be very aggressive, and when it does strike, it often does so without injecting venom.
There is “no need to panic,” Heal the Bay told KTLA 5 in an email.