Hungry python chows down on huge possum
A MURWILLUMBAH snake catcher has been left amazed after a Coastal Carpet Python has managed to digest a dinner that was almost as big as the snake itself.
Murwillumbah Snake Catchers' Max Walker said he got the call from a Murwillumbah primary school earlier this week to remove the 1.4kg snake.
The python was found by teachers trying to eat a possum it had won a life-and-death battle in the garden.
After one failed attempt at digesting his meal, Mr Walker arrived to find the snake when it returned for a second attempt.
"It was close to the school bell time for the students to come outside so I put both him and the possum in the bag," he said.
Once the snake was back in an enclosure in Mr Walker's house, it was third-time luck for swallowing its dinner.
"Overnight he ate the possum," he said.
"The amazing thing for me is that he has this tiny little head compared to the lump in his stomach, -pythons swallow their prey whole.
"The multiple bones in their jaws, that are held together by ligaments, separate and their breathing tube extends outside their mouth as it can take hours to swallow a big meal.
"He has certainly reset my expectations, it's truly amazing. They are fascinating animals."
Mr Walker said the snake's prey weighed 1kg, meaning the python would not be able to move far or climb while digesting.
"He's not a baby but he's not a big one either," Mr Walker said.
"A 5kg one would be a big one, the biggest I've ever seen was 14kg but that was stand out.
"One this size would probably normally eat a bird or rat.
"This will probably do him for a month and he won't digest it all for about two weeks. He's vulnerable to kookaburras and the like while he is like this so I'm letting him digest in the tank for a bit."
Mr Walker said Coastal Carpet Pythons were about 85 per cent of the snake call-outs he went to in the Tweed.
"They aren't venomous but they do have large teeth," he said.
"They are an ambush predator and will normally sit and wait for their prey, like a bird or a bat, in a tree, strike at it and constrict around it. It can't crush something but it can stop it breathing."
Mr Walker explained for a snake of this size, it would have been a struggle to kill the possum.
"I had one yesterday where the snake ended up with a 2cm slit from fighting to eat a fruit bat," he said.
"It's no small thing for this snake to eat the possum.
"I wanted to give him a chance to eat it as he put his life on the line to get it. It didn't seem fair to take it away after he did all the work. He was definitely punching out of his weight category."
Mr Walker said the best thing to do if residents saw a Coastal Carpet Python was to let them be, as the nocturnal animals usually turned up curled up asleep in people's pot plants.
"The best thing to do is leave it and it will go on its own way, although often if you have dogs, cats or kids leaving it alone is not an option so give a snake catcher a call," he said.
"They are really cruisy and won't bite. They would just keep on sleeping if you sat down next to it, it might move on after a day or it might spend the next five days living in the rafters with you, people don't upset them at all.
"It would happily live with you. It is the people that run around like chooks, not the snake.
"These are the kind of pythons you see on the news draped around people's shoulders."
Mr Walker has worked relocating snakes for Tweed Valley Wildlife carers for 10 years and has been operating his own business for the past 12 months.
He is one of three snake catchers on the Tweed and can be reached on 0424 413 701.
If you see a snake you believe needs to be relocated you can also call I'll Catch It Snake Relocations on 0474 280 344 or Tweed and Byron Snake Catcher - Reptile Relocation on 0428 771 223.