Facebook user Crystal posted photos in a Surfside Beach group on Saturday showing a black snake in the water.
“Snake on the beach today,” the photo caption stated. “It looks like a water moccasin. It was near the canal run off near 10th avenue north. Crazy!!”
One commenter exclaimed, “That’s why I no longer go in the water,” while another joked, “Tourist control snake.”
CCU biologist Scott Parker, who studies snakes, said the pictured snake appeared to be a harmless eastern garter snake.
“I can tell you with 100% confidence that it’s not a cottonmouth, it’s not a water moccasin, it is not any of the venomous species that we have in the area,” Parker said. “In addition, the Atlantic Ocean doesn’t have sea snakes, venomous or otherwise.”
Spotting a snake on the beach is “pretty rare” but not unheard of, Parker said. A harmless corn snake was spotted on the sands of North Myrtle Beach in January. In July 2022, a visitor to Myrtle Beach State Park found a venomous canebrake rattlesnake in the surf.
Parker presumed the snake could have gotten swept out to the ocean in a drainage canal from nearby Dogwood Lake or “ventured out into the saltwater to see if it could catch a fish.”
Garter snakes are semi-aquatic and even though they prefer fresh water, can survive for several hours in salt water.
If you see an unfamiliar snake on the beach, Parker said leave it be.
“Remember that snakes, even venomous ones, are a lot more afraid of you than probably you are of them,” he said.