Rare Venomous Sea Snake Found in California, Credited to El Niño

   12.21.15

For the second time in three months, a rare venomous sea serpent has been found in California.

The Surfrider Foundation reported that a yellow-bellied sea snake was recovered during a beach cleanup event on Bolsa Chica State Beach last week.

In October, another yellow-bellied sea snake was discovered in Silver Strand State Beach.

“It is incredible and fascinating to have two of these aquatic, highly venomous snakes suddenly show up around here,” Greg Pauly, herpetological curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, told the Los Angeles Times. “But this is not an invasion, and no one has ever died from the bite of this animal.”

Experts say that the snakes usually prey on small fish and would have difficulty opening their jaws wide enough to bite a human, although caution should still be taken. Like most other sea snakes, the venom from this species is very potent and can cause neuromuscular paralysis.

The yellow-bellied sea snake that washed up on Bolsa Chica had already died, but the one that was found in October was still alive.

“It looked lethargic when I approached,” Bob Forbes, the surfer who found the snake, told CNN. “I touched it lightly and it started to move.”

Worried that it could bite children or unsuspecting visitors, Forbes put the snake in a bucket with ocean water and gave it over to wildlife officials. At the time, experts said it was unusual—practically unheard of—for the species to come so far north. Yellow-bellied sea snakes are among the most widely distributed snakes in the world, but their range typically does not include California. Scientists suspect that El Niño might be to blame for bringing this sea serpent to the Golden State.

“There is belief that the El Niño temperature change could have enticed the creature to swim north in search of small fish and eels, which they use their venom to paralyze,” stated the Surfrider Foundation, which released a video of the snake on Youtube.

“These ‘yellow-bellied sea snakes’ live their entire lives on the warmer coasts of Mexico, Africa, Asia and Australia,” added the organization.

The Surfrider Foundation also discovered that the snake was seen in California just once before this year. In 1972 on Thanksgiving Day, a yellow-bellied snake washed up on San Clemente Beach.

You can watch a video of the snake below:

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