Beachgoers have been sent a stern warning after a "dangerously venomous" creature was found on a popular Sydney beach. "There are times during the year that we get a heap of sea snakes washing up," Stuart McKenzie from Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers 24/7 told Yahoo News Australia after a yellow-bellied sea snake was spotted at Wanda Beach in Cronulla. And it's usually to do with rough seas, exhaustion, illness or injury."
In a series of images posted online, the aquatic reptile can be seen lying on the sand and then a rock in the ocean. "Sea snakes are classified as dangerously venomous and capable of inflicting a fatal bite," the caption reads on Facebook. "If you do come across a sea snake (or snake of any kind), please do not attempt to touch it, even if it seems to be lifeless."
The post went on to explain that members of the public kept a close eye on the animal from a safe distance until help arrived: "Thanks to Shire Snake Wranglers for referring this to WIRES (Australia's largest wildlife rescue organisation). WIRES was able to transfer this beauty to Taronga Zoo Sydney who assessed it and gave it the all clear after a short stint in care."
The snake was later released further away from the public and "swam off strong". "I love a happy ending," one local responded on Facebook, while many praised the "beautiful creature".
Snakes in distress need your help
At about one metre in length, yellow-bellies aren't the biggest snakes in the ocean, but they do have a killer bite. "They're certainly considered highly venomous," Mr McKenzie said. "So they're certainly not something we recommend people handle or get too close to, and especially their pets if they do wash up on the beach."
While he said a lot of divers and snorkelers do see them, swimmers have nothing to be afraid of. "You would have to be pretty unlucky to be bitten by one," Mr McKenzie explained. "They're not really a defensive species. Unless of course you start poking it or try to grab it in the ocean and then it might bite you. For the most part, they're obviously pretty inquisitive but will probably steer clear of people swimming."
Anyone who spots a yellow-bellied sea snake on the sand is urged to give it a wide berth and report it. "As a general rule, the only time that they do wash up or you find them on the beach, something's probably wrong," Mr McKenzie added. "Call a local snake catcher or local rescue unit because the snake will either be in pain or need help."
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