The Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake

Today’s column features one of the most venomous reptiles inhabiting Baja. Besides the rattlesnakes, the Yellow-bellied Sea Snake (Hydrophis platurus) is the only dangerous snake in our region. Although they are not considered to live here, these curious, interesting and uncommon snakes do swim into the gulf from time to time. In the La Ventana area, though extremely rare, they can sometimes be seen around the reefs and even washed up onto the beach. I guess even sea snakes want to vacation here.

Most likely, if you have seen a long, snake-like creature in the water, it was an eel, which is a kind of fish. Many eels look so much like snakes that they get mis-identified frequently. To further complicate matters, some eels are called “snake eels” or even just “snakes.” For example, “tiger reef snakes” are actually eels. 

Actual sea snakes are black and yellow, and eat eels. They are usually very non-aggressive, and quite reluctant to bite, although they are highly venomous and so should be treated with caution. In most cases, you will see them sitting on the beach, which indicates that they may be sick or weak, and not in their best state. Recently my friend Julie sent a photo of just one such unfortunate fellow on South Beach. Here is that photo. When sea snakes are in the water, however, they tend to be far more active and healthy. If you want to talk or walk reptiles, email