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Extremely Rare Find: Pacific Snake Eel on Oregon Coast

Published 03/29/2020 at 6:34 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Extremely Rare Find: Pacific Snake Eel on Oregon Coast

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(Seaside, Oregon) – It’s so rare that it’s almost unheard of around the Pacific Northwest. (All photos courtesy Tiffany Boothe / Seaside Aquarium).

A north Oregon coast resident spotted something weird on a beach at Gearhart early Sunday – something squiggling around in the wet sand; something that looked like a snake. He called Seaside Aquarium, which sent out a couple of crew members to Sunset Beach where they discovered a Pacific Snake Eel (Ophichthus triserialis).

While the facility is closed to the public, staff are still on hand to respond to stranded beach creatures (and to care for its watery residents). Seaside Aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe was surprised by the find, although when the beachcomber mentioned “snake” they had a strong hunch.

Indeed it turned out to be Pacific Snake Eel, an extremely rare find. One was discovered on the southern Washington coast last year, but aside from this discovery on Sunday it’s nearly unheard of.

“This will mark [one of the few] times a Pacific Snake Eel has been found on the beach in Oregon,” Boothe said. “The two previous findings were in Bandon and Lincoln City.”

Oregon Coast Beach Connection readers have presented their own finds in recents years, which brings the average up slightly.

The eel found Sunday was about two and a half feet long, according to aquarium manager Keith Chandler. The one found last year at Long Beach on the Washington coast was about four feet long, and it had a rather special occasion tied to it.


“They typically range from northern California down to Peru, they are rarely seen this far north, but last year on March 14th a Pacific Snake Eel was found on the Long Beach peninsula,” Boothe said. “It was the first time that a Pacific Snake Eel had been found on the beach that far north.”

Like last year’s Washington eel, Sunday’s Oregon coast find was not in good shape. (See First Ever Find on Washington Coast: Oregon Crew Discovers Pacific Snake Eel To date, there are only three recorded incidents of one being found in Oregon)

“The Pacific Snake Eel was too lethargic to simply place back into the ocean, so it was taken to the Seaside Aquarium,” Boothe said. “We have it in an isolated tank and over the next few days we will begin to warm the water to try to make him more comfortable.”

Chandler said the Washington coast eel last year died after about two months.

“We couldn’t get it to eat,” he said. “And this one will likely die too.”


Above: the Pacific Snake Eel found on the Washington coast last year

Another snake-like fish found around the Oregon coast and Washington coast is the Pacific Wolf Eel, which has a strikingly Frankenstein-like face and a long body that gets at least seven feet long. More photos below:

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