Rare venomous sea snake found on California beach

Scientists seem to be getting used to strange things showing up on the beach in California.

By Brooks Hays

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., Dec. 21 (UPI) -- For the second time in 2015, a venomous sea snake has washed onto a California beach.

The yellow-bellied snake was found dead last weekend on Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach. It was discovered by a volunteer cleanup crew with the Surfrider Foundation. The snake measured 27 inches.


It's only the fifth time the yellow-bellied sea snake has been seen on the West Coast, but it's the second time this year. One was found on Strand State Beach in Ventura County in October. It was alive, but died shortly after discovery.

Before October, the venomous snake hadn't been seen since 1972.

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"And this last one -- I mean mid-December; this is pretty late. Now that we're in mid to late December, it's kind of incredible that this is still occurring," Greg Pauly, herpetological curator at Los Angeles County's Natural History Museum, told Southern California Public Radio.

The snakes are native to more tropical waters, but a dramatic El Nino event has seen warm waters stretch up the California coast over the last several months, leading to a series of interrelated and dramatic ecological events -- toxic algae blooms, lost and emaciated sea lions and beached tuna crabs.


Scientists seem to be getting used to strange things showing up on the beach.

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"We were expecting this," Pauly told ABC News after the first snake showed up this year. "It's a rare event, but it was also somewhat predictable given that we are currently experiencing a fairly dramatic El Nino year."

Though yellow-bellied sea snakes are venomous, their mouths are rather small -- meant for hunting small bait fish and eels -- and can rarely deliver a significant dose to humans. Still, biologists suggest swimmers and surfers stay away if they encounter one in the water.

If there are two on the beach, Pauly says there are likely more snakes out there in the ocean.

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