An “exotic, incredibly venomous” sea snake has been spotted along the Southern California coast, and a local environmental group said the creature was brought to shore courtesy of El Niño.
At least one yellow-bellied sea snake, which lives its entire life in the ocean, was recently spotted on a beach in the Oxnard area.
The reptile typically lives in warmer tropical waters, and its appearance is probably a harbinger of El Niño, the cyclical weather phenomenon connected to warmer sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, according to Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay
The snake sighting was highlighted by the nonprofit environmental advocacy group in a blog post on Friday.
“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,” stated the post by Heal the Bay’s senior coastal policy manager, Dana Murray.
It’s the first time since the early 1980s that the black-and-yellow snake has been seen in California, according to Heal the Bay. The last yellow-bellied sea snake sighted was also during an El Niño phase.
Two sightings were reported in Oxnard, but it wasn’t clear if they were of the same snake, Murray said in an email.
“No need to panic,” the organization said on its Facebook page, calling the snake “exotic” and “incredibly venomous.”
Anna Iker said she spotted a snake on Silver Strand Beach near Oxnard on Thursday. It was washed back out to sea, she said.
Robert Forbes also spotted a yellow-bellied sea snake, possibly the same one, on the same beach. He found it about 9 a.m. Friday, he said, and called the state wildlife department. The snake had died by the time officials arrived hours later, Forbes said.
The snake was being taken to the Museum of Natural History of Los Angeles, Forbes said.
Yellow-bellied sea snakes are extremely venomous and members of the public are advised not to touch them.
They can swim backward and forward and can stay underwater for up to three hours, according to the website CaliforniaHerps.com.
If you spot one, Heal the Bay requests you take photos, note the exact location, and report the sighting to iNaturalist and Herp Mapper.