Tag Archives: seasnake

Another Sea Snake Report Comes From Gulf of Mexico

Sea snakes are some of the most unusual and mysterious reptiles on the planet and their known range is limited to the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

I have however uncovered a series of interesting reports in the Gulf of Mexico along the Texas/Louisiana border.

In response to an earlier entry here at The Wildlife Journalist® another report came in-this time from Florida.

Last year in August (2017) we were on a family vacation. We went down to the beach and got I’m in the water and not two minutes later my 11-year-old started yelling snake. I still couldn’t see it. So he pointed at it and followed it out the water. It went down the beach 20 or 30 yards and back in the water. It was only a baby but definitely a banded sea krait. I have watched many nature shows with this snake on it. This was at Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island, Fla. We will be there again this August and I will be keeping a look out for another one.

This location is on the Gulf Coast of Florida and is the first report we are aware of in the region.

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Banded sea krait. Photo courtesy NOAA

In the first article on the subject we note there are eel species in the Gulf that could be mistaken for a sea snake, however the behavior mentioned in the report above does not match up with eel behavior.

Is it really possible that banded sea kraits entered the Gulf of Mexico through ship ballasts?

An article at thoughtco.com explains ballast systems purpose and how they work.

A ballast water system allows a ship to pump water in and out of very large tanks to compensate for a change in cargo load, shallow draft conditions, or weather.

  • The capacity of ballast water tanks might be millions of gallons on a large vessel. This allows vessels to carry a light or heavy load while maintaining ideal buoyancy and handling conditions in all situations.

More than 7,000 species move around in ship ballots daily according to officials with the World Wildlife Fund in an article in The Telegraph and while ships are supposed to change their ballast water in the open ocean to lessen the chance of invaders making it inland, this would have little impact on sea snakes. They could easily catch a ride on a mat of Sargassum and be just fine.

The Chinese Mitten crab has taken up residence in the Thames and other English river systems after being brought in by ballasts. It’s within the realm of possibility for sea snakes to hitch a ride into the Gulf.

An interesting side-note is the most likely sea snake hitchhiker would be the yellow-bellied sea snake as it is found along the Pacific Coast of Panama and is the most widely distributed species. All of the reports I have gathered are of banded sea kraits which live much further away from the United States.

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Yellowbelly sea snake. Photo courtesy NOAA

We will talk more about this in another post and dig more into some other possible cases of mistaken identity besides the aforementioned eels.

If you have seen any sea snake in the Gulf of Mexico or had a sighting of something snake-like you cannot explain email chester@kingdomzoo.com.

This story is getting more interesting by the week and we will continue coverage here at The Wildlife Journalist®.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

 

Have sea snakes entered the Gulf of Mexico?

It emerged from a weedline that covered the edges of the 18 Mile Light (Sabine Bank Lighthouse) out of Sabine Pass, TX on the Texas-Louisiana border.

“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.

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Banded Sea Krait (Photo courtesy NOAA Photo)

The problem is there are not supposed to be any sea snakes in Gulf waters. They dwell the Pacific although in the past there has been some banter about whether or not they would make it through the Panama Canal.

I got that report a couple of years back and then sort of filed 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, TX.. He said this as he brought me a king snake for my collection and we spent an hour talking about serpents. And just as he was done relating the story of the rattler, he dropped a bombshell.

“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 paddled his kayak 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.

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This is what two separate eyewitnesses reported seeing in close proximity in the Gulf of Mexico.

Then I realized this was only about 25 miles from where the other sighting came from which described a banded sea krait. These two individuals did not know each other and the reports were unsolicited. In other words there was no collusion.

Once again there are supposed to be no sea snakes in Texas.

A possible candidate for the sightings 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 although I have never spoken with anyone who has ever reported seeing one and that includes divers-including myself.

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Snake Eel (Photo courtesy NOAA)

There are several reports of beaded sea snake 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.

A recent video shows a snake that appears to be a sea snake in the Gulf of Maine-far from their range.

If you think you might have seen a sea snake in the Gulf of Mexico email me at chester@kingdomzoo.com. I would appreciate any accounts, photos or video.

Sea snakes are fascinating creatures and their presence in the Gulf although unlikely is not impossible.

Chester Moore, Jr.