No, Californians, Venomous El Niño Snakes Are Not Going to Kill You

 

Here is some video, they are dangerous and venomous, don't get close to them. Rescued this sea snake today on the beach here at Silverstrand in Oxnard. Prior to this there was only a report of them being seen as far north as Orange County. El Niño has definitely brought a lot of strange and unusual aquatic fish and animals up. Caution these snakes are venomous and should be avoided and not handled. And yes it is alive.

Posted by Robert Forbes on Friday, October 16, 2015

On Friday, Southern Californians began freaking out after a surfer discovered a venomous sea snake on a beach north of Los Angeles. The species, the yellow-bellied sea snake, normally keeps to tropical waters and has not been reported on the Golden State's shores for more than 30 years, and never as far north as Ventura County. The snake died shortly after it was found, but not before adding to El Niño apocalypse anxiety. Local wildlife experts have hypothesized that the snake traveled this far north because of unusually warm waters off of the California coast due to El Niño.

If you suffer from ophidiophobia, these reports probably gave you a scare. But we have some good news: While venomous snakes are a significant danger in other parts of the world, the United States is almost certainly not going to see a wave of deadly snake attacks, even with a strong El Niño. Yes, sea snakes might be feeding further north this winter, but that does not mean they are going to be out for human prey; likely the only reason this snake came ashore is because it was injured or sick. 

Furthermore, according to David Steen, a snake expert and researcher at Auburn University's Museum of Natural History, there are no known human deaths attributed to the yellow-bellied sea snake, and only about five people per year are killed by venomous snakes of any kind in the United States. By contrast, there were 42 reports of dog-bite fatalities in the United States last year.

"Venomous snakes deserve our respect but in many cases the danger they represent is exaggerated," Steen wrote me in an email, adding that a sea snake would have no reason to attack a human unless it was picked up or harassed. "If you don't already know that it is a bad idea to pick up snakes that you do not recognize then you probably have bigger problems."

This story has been revised.