Print Page | Close Window

Snake swimming in the sea - is this normal?

Printed From: Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK
Category: General
Forum Name: UK Reptiles and Amphibians
Forum Description: A forum for general questions and answers relating to wild reptiles and amphibians in the UK
Printed Date: 22 Jan 2021 at 2:55pm
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 11.06 -

Topic: Snake swimming in the sea - is this normal?
Posted By: johnsquires
Subject: Snake swimming in the sea - is this normal?
Date Posted: 25 Jul 2012 at 9:04pm
I saw a snake swimming in the sea today, just off a sandy beach on the Norfolk coast. It was only a few metres out, and it swam along on the surface just like how a snake would slither along the ground. It came along, from the North, heading along at about half my walking pace. It was attracting a lot of spectators. It swam past some children who were playing out at approx one metre depth, much to the alarm of their dad!
Can anyone tell me if this is normal or common for a snake? Presumably it was just a land snake taking a swim. I don't know much about snakes, but it definitely had a snake-like head, and scales. Could have been a metre long.
It was a hot day, maybe 26 degrees C, plenty of sun. The snake wasn't bothered by the people in the sea, or by the seals that were also around. I've certainly never seen anything like it before. Any ideas what it was up to?

Posted By: Suzy
Date Posted: 26 Jul 2012 at 9:47am
By the size of it it sounds like a grass snake. There are posts on this forum about sea swimming snakes and from memory I think they were all adders. There is a photo of one in the sea at Branscombe which will have come off the undercliff, which is thick with them, and crossed the beach into the water. I think the feeling is they are territory seeking - some places abroad regularly have snakes crossing water to islands.
Many years ago my brother tried to catch a large grass snake that was basking on a pebble beach on the shore of Lake Windermere. It escaped by swimming out into the lake but eventually turned and headed back to shore. This was freshwater of course.


Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 26 Jul 2012 at 1:05pm
Dont forget there are eels swimming around the coast that could be mistaken for snakes??


Posted By: sussexecology
Date Posted: 26 Jul 2012 at 4:47pm

interesting sighting for sure.

Funnily enough, i was talking to somebody only yesterday about adders being able to swim. This is not well documentated in literature that adders can swim but must admit i have never seen it for myself, but i have come across 2 or 3 people who have witnessed them swimming. These were all in freshwater habitats though.

Do you recall seeing a distinctive pattern at all on the snake, such as a zig-zag pattern along it's body? This would be adder if so. Grass snakes have a yellow mark on their head, but not sure if you would have been able to see this or not ?? It is very distinctive though

Keith is right though that eels can be easily mistaken for grass snakes.

SE Reptile Ecologist

Posted By: Mark_b
Date Posted: 27 Jul 2012 at 9:10am
Eels don't tend to swim on the surface do they?


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 27 Jul 2012 at 9:25am
There are references in the literature of adder being caught in fishing nets well out to sea. We also have had several accounts on the forum of adders swimming in the sea. There has been speculation locally regarding adders swimming in the Blackwater estuary to reach Osea Island.

Adder will certainly do it, why they do it is a bigger question to me, so I can't shed any light on that, perhaps they just like it on hot sunny days! This might actually have something in it as most of the sightings reported seem to occur on the hottest days and it may be simply a thermoregulation behaviour.

Certainly though something I have never observed first hand so thanks for reporting your experience John.

Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2012 at 5:10pm
I have seen adders on the beach at Studland in the past within a few wiggles from the sea keith


Posted By: johnsquires
Date Posted: 30 Jul 2012 at 9:16am
Thanks for your replies folks. Absolutely nobody believes me about this when I tell it to them, they all say it was an eel, but it certainly looked like a snake to me, flat head, scales etc. Judging by pictures on Google I'd say it was a grass snake but I couldn't really say for sure. I was at Winterton-on-Sea where there are a lot of dunes. It's not near a river, so definitely salt water. There are Terns nesting on the beach, would snakes be attracted to the beach to eat the eggs? Oh, and to confirm, it was definitely swimming on the surface of the water, head out of water, body half submerged, making the typical snake-like S patterns. I wish I'd had my camera!

Posted By: herpetologic2
Date Posted: 30 Jul 2012 at 7:55pm
It could have been either snake species as I believe that the area has lots of both. It would be good to have it recorded and you can either here or on the record pool 

We have an eel project in Hampshire eel sightings are sorted by where the animal is spotted animals hogging the river bottom are usually potential eel sightings while swimming at the surface is often a grass snake. 

Adders are not adverse to salt water and there are several sightings in the river crouch, river Blackwater which leads me to conclude that they do cross the sea to islands. Rat island in the Stroud near mersea have grass snakes and probably come from the seawall. 

I would love to radio track these snakes to see whether they regularly take these seawater trips et. 

Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2012 at 6:12am
Also there could be sea snakes arriving here from warmer parts of the world as the climate changes but more lik a nat .keith.


Posted By: fatboy
Date Posted: 09 Aug 2012 at 9:07pm
we where at Scratby (just down the road from your sighting) on the 24th July and saw a snake swimming in the sea - as did loads of people.

I have a photo - but can't upload in this postCry

Anyone know how I can upload from my PC?

Posted By: jimmy62alan
Date Posted: 06 Apr 2013 at 1:47pm
Most snakes love water, either for hunting fish or just to hydrate and cool down. Before a snake is due to shed its skin it will soak in water or go swimming. We bath all our snakes in our bath and they love it the Boa's, Pythons, Corn Snakes, Cali-Kings and our Gray Rat Snakes. In general all snakes will go to water some are surface swimmers and some are divers like our Pythons, our they like  the bath as deep as possible, it is awsome seeing them swimming and diving down to the bottom lol. I've only seen Grassie's in the wild swimming, but seeing any snake is still realy good seeing them be it in our bath or a snake in a lake. All snakes look good either on land or in water lo.
Sheffield S25

Print Page | Close Window

Forum Software by Web Wiz Forums® version 11.06 -
Copyright ©2001-2016 Web Wiz Ltd. -