I Thought I Saw a Sea Snake?
It emerged from a weedline that covered the edges of the 18-mile light out of Sabine Pass.
“It had white/bluish and black bands and came from under the weeds and then swam to the surface. It was a sea snake, and I have no doubts about what I saw,” said one angler I interviewed in person who wishes to remain anonymous.
The angler said the “snake” had a paddle-like tail, and he and his fishing partner observed it for several minutes.
The problem is that sea snakes are not supposed to exist in Gulf or Atlantic waters. They dwell in the Pacific, although in the past there has been some banter about whether they would make it through the Panama Canal.
I got that report a couple of years back and then sort of filed it in the “X” category for review later on down the road.
Then I spoke with someone who told me about catching a big diamondback rattlesnake near High Island. He said this as he brought me a king snake for my collection, and we spent an hour talking about serpents.
“The craziest thing I ever saw was a banded sea krait at one of the rigs off of the Bolivar Peninsula,” he said. He reported seeing the snake swimming around a rig that he had kayaked to on a calm day.
A couple of things happened when I got this report. First, he called it a “banded sea krait” which is a specific type of sea snake. There are numerous species.
Then I realized this was only about 25 miles from where the other sighting came from, which described a banded sea krait. Once again there are supposed to be no sea snakes in Texas.
The most likely candidate is the snake eel, which is present in the Gulf of Mexico and has similar markings to a banded sea krait. They are established in the Gulf and would be a species found around an oil rig or a structure like the 18 Mile Light (Sabine Bank Lighthouse).
There are several reports of beaded seasnake that allegedly washed up in Florida after a red tide event. There are also a few stories of sea snakes reportedly being found in different areas of the Caribbean.
Bloggers blame ship ballasts for carrying snakes from the Pacific and then unintentionally releasing them into the Gulf. It is unlikely, but the fact is you just never know.
Sea snakes are fascinating creatures.
Some of the more well-known are the beautiful banded sea krait and the olive sea snake, both of which are medium- to large-sized snakes.
Some sea snakes spend much time on land, hiding in debris along shorelines, although others are almost totally aquatic.
Sea snakes are highly venomous. When compared on a drop by drop basis some would be considered to possess the most deadly venom on Earth. The good news is that they rarely bite and when they do bite, only tiny levels of their neurotoxic venom are released.
According to a 2009 article in The New Scientist, a steamer in the Strait of Malacca, off the coast of Malaysia, reported sighting “millions” of one of the largest species which grow up to nine feet in length. This was related to the breeding season. Although large aggregations are fairly common, this seemed to be an unusual occurrence.
All reptiles must drink water, and it must be fresh water. So how does a sea snake drink fresh water if it lives in the ocean?
According to an article published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, by researchers at the University of Florida in Gainesville, they find places where it is raining heavily. There, they wait for pools that scientists call “lenses” of fresh water to form on the surface, and drink. It is believed they can go up to six months without drinking fresh water so it is not something they need daily.
If anyone thinks they might have seen a sea snake or have photos of a snake eel (with the bands showing) email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
—by Chester Moore
—from Chester Moore