While enjoying a sunrise stroll on the beach, you expect to see birds, clams, and maybe a crab or two – not a massive venomous sea snake suffering from a life-threatening injury.
This, however, is the exact sight beachgoers found themselves confronted with while walking Australia’s Sunshine Beach on Monday morning. Concerned for the clearly ailing serpent, they reported their find to Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers, who immediately set out to help.
According to SCSC owner Stuart McKenzie, the snake was severely injured when they arrived. “It was definitely unwell, it had a big injury to its side, like something had taken a chunk out of it,” McKenzie told news.com.au.
The snake was in such poor condition, in fact, that he wasn’t sure if it would survive the ordeal. But in an effort to save it, snake catchers transported the sea snake to a local wildlife hospital for treatment.
Among the largest and thickest of all marine snakes, the Stokes’ sea snake can grow over 6 feet in length with a 10-inch circumference. Even still, McKenzie admitted that this particular individual was “pretty chunky.”
While sea snakes are rarely encountered off the coast of the United States, they’re not nearly as uncommon in Australia. There are around 70 species worldwide, with at least 32 inhabiting the waters of northern Australia.
The majority of sea snakes are venomous
Out of the 3,000 or so species of snakes worldwide, only around 10 percent are venomous. This percentage climbs quite a bit higher when it comes to sea snakes, though.
Unlike their land-dwelling cousins, most of which are harmless, the majority of sea snakes are highly venomous. The Stokes’ sea snake is no exception.
The full capabilities of the venom of a Stokes’ sea snake have yet to be studied. We do know, however, that its hollow fangs and neurotoxic venom are enough to immobilize fish with ease.
Now, that’s not to say they’re man-hunting monsters. On the contrary, the species has caused no reported human fatalities. Unless handled or trapped, they aren’t considered dangerous at all, showing little to no interest in humans.
Their venom does mean, however, that handling one should be left to the professionals. “People need to really keep a safe distance and make sure they’re keeping their dog away, and just call a local snake catcher straight away,” McKenzie explained.
Sea snakes are extremely well-adapted to life at sea. Though they must surface periodically to breathe air, they have no need to venture on land. Most, in fact, are unable to move well on land, as their paddle-shaped tails and keeled bellies are meant for swimming.
Unfortunately, this didn’t bode well for the individual on Sunshine Beach. And sadly, the snake died as a result of its injuries shortly after its arrival at the wildlife hospital.
“If a Sea Snake is washed up on the beach, it usually means it is unwell or injured and needs assistance,” McKenzie warned in a Facebook post.
“DO NOT try and pick up the snake and put it back in the ocean. Sea Snakes are highly venomous and should only be handled by professionals.”
This article by Caitlin Berard was first published by The Outsider on 22 July 2023. Lead Image: (Photo by Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers 24/7 via Facebook).
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