Photo: City of Coronado

For the third time in a year, a yellow-bellied sea snake has washed ashore in Southern California. The 20-inch snake was found Tuesday afternoon on Coronado’s North Beach.

Last October, a two-foot-long yellow-bellied sea snake was found on Silver Strand State Beach in Ventura County, and in December, a 27-inch snake was found in Huntington Beach. Before then, the only previous verified sighting of a washed-up yellow-bellied sea snake in California was in 1972.

The snake is normally found in tropical oceanic waters, and many experts believe the snakes have ridden here in a warm current of water, fueled by the exceptionally strong El Niño climatic event. Interestingly, several sea snakes have also washed up along the coast of New South Wales in Australia where they are also not normally seen.

No human deaths have been attributed to the species. The snakes are not normally aggressive towards people, but if they do bite, their venom could be extremely painful to deadly. If you find one, steer clear.

Here’s the official news release from the City of Coronado:

• • •

CORONADO, CA (January 13, 2016) – A venomous sea snake washed up on Coronado’s North Beach Tuesday afternoon. Shortly after being secured by lifeguards, the 20-inch-long snake died.

At about 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, a citizen brought the snake which was barely alive to the attention of lifeguards, who placed it in a bucket. The snake was found on Dog Beach near Naval Air Station North Island. Lifeguards contacted several local snake experts, who concluded the reptile was a yellow-bellied sea snake normally found in tropical oceanic waters.

The snake’s venom is highly potent but is used on prey. No human deaths have been reported. At the direction of California Department of Fish and Game officials, the City will give the snake to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The same type of snake has been reported washing up on shore in California in recent months, a sign of warming ocean temperatures and El Niño conditions.


Photo: City of Coronado. (Note that the snake measured only 20 inches long).