Deadly Sea Snakes Appear On California Beach For First Time In 30 Years, Scientists Blame El Niño

Deadly sea snakes have been spotted at Silver Strand Beach in Oxnard, California, following warmer-than-usual Pacific ocean temperatures. The yellow-bellied sea snakes, scientific name Pelamis platurus, dwell entirely in the sea and haven’t been spotted on a California beach in more than 30 years. However, the snakes are highly venomous with a bite than is capable of killing a human.

The Daily Mail reports that for the first time in 30 years a yellow-bellied sea snake has washed up on shore in California. The snakes were spotted at the Silver Strand Beach in southern California. The snakes were spotted by beach-goers with marine scientists confirming the sightings. According to Heal the Bay marine scientist Dana Murray, the snakes are venomous but not aggressive. Murray claims that a bite from a yellow-bellied sea snake is uncommon, but that the creatures should not be approached. Instead, the marine scientists suggests that those spotting the snakes should take a photograph while noting the location of the sighting. The photos and location should then be reported to authorities.

“They’re highly venomous. But at the same time, they’re not very aggressive to humans. Don’t get too close. Take pictures. Note their location. And report it.”

Heal the Bay
Heal the Bay posted the following photo to their blog informing beach-goers to snap photos and provide detailed location information of yellow-bellied sea snake sightings. (Image Credit: Heal The Bay via Daily Mail)

The LA Times notes that the last time the yellow-bellied sea snakes made their way to the California coast was back in the 1980s during El Niño. Greg Pauly, the herpetology curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, points out that the venomous sea snakes live in warm sea waters and are entirely sea dwelling. In fact, he notes that the sea snakes typically do not end up on the beach unless they are sick or injured.

“The species is entirely aquatic. Seeing a yellow-bellied sea snake wash ashore indicates that the animal is most likely ill or injured.”

Therefore, they do not see a cause for concern regarding the appearance of the snakes on the California shore. Instead, they ask beach-goers to remain vigilant and to report sightings of the snakes. Scientists blame the emergence of the snakes on this year’s El Niño, which is reportedly going to be particularly strong. The snakes can only make their way to the Pacific coast when waters are warm enough for their travel. Therefore, the snakes are typically unable to make it all the way to the coast as waters are too cool. However, thanks to this year’s El Niño, the Pacific ocean waters are exceptionally warm, allowing for the snakes to travel further towards the U.S. Pacific coast than normal.


Though the snakes were discovered on the California coast back in the early 1980s, the finding at Silver Strand Beach is the furthest north in California that the snakes have ever been recorded.

So, what exactly should you be looking for if you are strolling a California beach? California Herpetology notes that the snake has a flattened triangular head with nostrils on top of its head. It has a flat body and tail and small fangs on its upper jaw. It is dark brown or black in color with a distinct bright or pale yellow underbelly. The yellow also extends up the side of the creature. The tail has yellow spots or “bars” on the end.

What do you think about the highly venomous yellow-bellied sea snakes being spotted on the California coast?

[Image Credit: Twitter]