Snakes make three-course meal of Australian family's pets
A python swallows a pet dog
Paul Larter in Brisbane
Australians like to chuckle at foreigners' naive visions of a land where kangaroos can be seen nibbling at the grass on a residential street. Sometimes though, the wildlife does come — rather unnervingly — closer to home than most would like to think.
A couple are fearful for the safety of their two small children after watching in horror as the family dog was devoured by a 5m (16ft) python that crept into their suburban home.
Daniel Peric said that he was afraid to leave his children, aged 5 and 7, alone in any part of the house after the amethystine python swallowed his silky terrier-cross chihuahua. “We'd had the dog about five years, so it was part of the family,” Mr Peric said. “Watching it unfold before your eyes was pretty gut-wrenching.”
The family threw plastic chairs in a vain attempt to stop the 50kg reptile, which four days earlier had been seen in the dog's bed on the veranda. It was not the first time that a snake had struck against the family in Kuranda, 25km (15 miles) outside Cairns in the north east of Australia. A few weeks ago the cat fell victim to a similar non-venomous python; then on Sunday it was the guinea-pig's turn to be swallowed.
* Snakes-in-the-bed horror
* Parched snakes send panic through Australian suburbs
“When it happens once, you think it's a one-off, but last night I thought ‘this is serious', Mr Peric said. “We have ducted air-conditioning. Call it paranoia, but my big fear is that a snake will get in there.”
Only the dog's hind legs and tail were visible when Stuart Douglas, the owner of the Australian Venom Zoo in Kuranda, arrived to remove the python. He said that Mr Peric was justified in his concern for the children. “A snake of that size is quite capable of killing a small child,” Mr Douglas said.
The family is not alone in being targeted by an “urban scrubbie” — a snake that has adapted to living with man. Mr Douglas said that he was aware of 20 other people in the town of 1,500 who had lost pets as the human population pushed into the traditional territory of the snake.
“These pythons used to feed on wallabies, but now they feed on cats and dogs in suburbia,” he said. “It's a classic example of snake adapting.”
Food for thought
— The scrub python is Australia's largest snake, growing to a maximum of almost 30ft, although 15-20ft is more common
— Its typical diet includes birds, fruitbats and possums. Its metabolism is slow enough that one fruitbat can sustain it for a month
— Unlike some snakes, such as anacondas, it has a thin body and is unable to kill larger animals
Source: Bristol Zoo
* Have your say
The people living in the house had the opportunity to call a snake handler earlier and should have done so particularly, after the snake was seen sleeping in the dog's bed.
The snake's intention was clear.
They could have also moved the dog from the outside veranda to the inside of the house. As far as I'm aware snakes haven't worked out how to open doors or windows yet.
As for a python this large finding its way through the ducted air-conditioning well that's not very likely.
I also don't think attempting to kill such a large snake with a shovel is an option and Australians unlike our American friends don't keep guns near at hand. Most types of firearms are banned in Australia as is killing native wildlife unless absolutely necessary.
My husband has killed tiger snakes (with a shovel) in our backyard when necessary as they are venomous and very deadly and only when they were striking at our pet dogs.
Generally though you are better off to leave such snakes alone.
Cathy Thomson, Geeveston, Tas Australia
This is why you should keep a machete in the house.
Daniel J Davis, New York,
You don't need a gun to kill a snake. A boot heel will do just fine--even on a big one.
drawlr, Tooele, Utah