Sea Snakes in SoCal. Is this the New Normal?

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Yellow-bellied sea snake found in Newport Beach

A rare yellow-bellied sea snake was found sliding across the sand near the 18th St. lifeguard tower in Newport Beach this past Monday. Greg Pauly, the herpetological curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, said this recent find is the third such sighting since 2015 and the fifth since 1972, in an article published by the Los Angeles Times.

“Oceans are warming and the species that respond to that change will be those that are the most mobile,” Pauly said. “So the big question now is this: Are sea snakes swimming off the coast of Southern California the new normal?”

According to the Times, the 25 inch sea snake was taken by a lifeguard to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, where it was euthanized.

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“When one of these marine serpents washes up on a beach,” Pauly said, “it means it is sick and doesn’t have enough energy to swim out beyond the shore break.”

Normal habitat

Yellow-bellied sea snakes are venomous, but fortunately for paddlers and surfers, the snakes are non-predatory and unlikely to bite unless picked up. The species is the most common sea snake in the world and typically is found in warm waters near Africa, Asia, Australia, Central America and Mexico.

If you happen to encounter a sea snake, don’t attempt to pick it up. Simply notify the nearest lifeguard and avoid agitating the animal.