This is not a drill. Yellow-bellied sea snakes, described as “incredibly venomous” or alternatively “dangerously venomous,” are washing up on California’s beaches. Well, at least one has. And that’s plenty. The sea snake sighting is particularly rare because yellow-bellied sea snakes typically live in warmer, tropical waters. It’s not totally clear what brought the snake to southern California, but naturalists suspect El Niño is causing ocean surface temperatures to rise in the Pacific. And voilà. Everyone out of the water. The last time one was seen in California was 30 years ago, also in an El Niño year.
Officials have warned the public not to touch the snakes. But they really shouldn’t have to. It seems pretty obvious you should not touch this animal, unless your basest human survival instinct is impaired. The local Heal the Bay organization stressed there is “no need to panic” over the snake-sighting. But that’s just, like, their opinion, man.
The yellow-bellied sea snake typically lives out its entire life in the ocean subsisting on small fish and eels. It can also dive and stay under water for three hours. And, fun fact, it can do this: “In order to remove foreign items from its body such as algae, barnacles, or other growths acquired by a life at sea, this snake ties a knot in its body and runs the knot from one end of the body to the other, cleaning the skin in the process.”