A woman found a venomous sea snake washed up alive on a Northland beach on the weekend, but experts say potentially deadly bites from them are extremely rare.
Samantha Cooper posted images of the yellow-bellied sea snake she found at Tokerau Beach, Doubtless Bay on a public Facebook group yesterday.
"To all the Karen's. Yes we tried to put it back in the ocean but it kept swimming back on to the sand, the tide is on it's way out and I was worried about kids and dogs safety... Also cars drive on Tokerau so it was most probably get squished. I gave the snake to doc. I didn't know Aotearoa had snakes," Cooper posted on the Kaitaia Noticeboard.
Department of Conservation technical advisor for marine species Clinton Duffy told 1 NEWS the snake is a native species and is protected under the Wildlife Act 1953.
"Yellow-bellied sea snakes should not be handled because they are highly venomous and a bite from one is likely to be fatal without access to snake anti-venom. However, bites from them are extremely rare because their fangs are small and located at the back of their mouths," Duffy says.
"In addition, yellow-bellied sea snakes are not adapted to life on land and those found ashore are usually injured or moribund from thermal shock.
"Unlike banded sea snakes and kraits yellow-bellied sea snakes are entirely oceanic and complete their entire life-cycle far from land, even giving birth to live young at sea."
Duffy says the nearest population of yellow-bellied sea snakes to New Zealand is believed to be in the northern Tasman Sea.
A spokesperson for the Ministry for Primary Industries says the snakes don't provide a biosecurity risk as they are classed as a native species.
"MPI receives two or three notifications about sea snakes each year. Most of these records represent snakes washed ashore after heavy storms."
Anyone finding a sea snake should avoid handling it, and if possible photograph and report it to the Department of Conservation (0800 DOC HOT).