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Another Mark O'Shea Article that may be of interest

Fact or Fiction?

Mark O'Shea Says:

Man-eating snakes

A serious bite from a large python or boa is the most unpleasant and bloody that can be delivered by any non-venomous snake. The speed and power of the strike, due to the muscular structure of the snake's neck, means it's a very powerful blow, while the six rows of recurved teeth embed deeply penetrating flesh causing extensive bleeding. A strike to the head is more than likely to stun the victim. If the snake can coil around its victim, the weight of the snake tightening its coils to trap the arms, and the shock of the strike will cause the victim to fall to the ground, if not already there. The snake doesn't need to find an anchorage point for its tail, simply tightening its muscular coils will apply sufficient pressure to kill, and there's not much chance of escape. Clearly larger pythons and Anacondas can kill a human, but swallowing them is a different thing altogether, a much more difficult process. It is generally believed that the shoulders of an adult male are too broad for a snake to maneuver its jaws around, rubbish, in truth a 5.0 metre python or anaconda can probably do this. Certainly, a child or small adult, would cause few problems for a large snake. On the rare occasions when an attack has happened, it is more than likely a case of mistaken identity by the snake.

South Americans:

No matter what Hollywood would have us believe, boas simply are not big enough to be a serious threat to man. The only South American snakes to reach the proportions necessary to kill and devour a human are the anacondas, and probably the Green Anaconda is the only one capable. It is a large and powerful, semi aquatic predator of medium to large mammals and easily capable of killing and potentially swallowing a small human. A human attacked in shallow water by a 6.0 metre anaconda, weighing over 100kgs, is probably just as likely to drown as die from constriction. Given that this species feeds on deer, caiman, peccary and capybara, it is probable that it could engorge a small humans shoulders. In spite of this possibility attacks are rare. Two first hand and trustworthy accounts of large anacondas attacking from ambush positions were reported from Colombia in 1978 and Venezuela in 1992. Clearly they were a case of mistaken identity, the anaconda was waiting in ambush for its usual prey, in both cases. Cases of people actually being eaten are much rarer and confined to traveler's tales. The patterning of an anaconda makes it virtually invisible in shallow water, even clear water. Taking into account the low human habitation in the anaconda's realm, it's no surprise that there are few, if any, reliable accounts of humans being eaten.

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African pythons, on the other hand are equally at home on land or in the water. The first report of an African python eating a human was published in 1707. A python was reportedly killed and found to contain the body of an African. Since then there has been numerous stories of humans being attacked by African Rock Pythons. These include the story of a rock python being found with the body of a dead woman in its coils, on an island in Lake Victoria in the late 1920's or early 1930's, and a case of a 13 year old youth being killed and swallowed by a large python in Uganda in 1951, the snake was forced to regurgitate its victim. Also attributed to the Southern African Rock Python is a famous account from 1979, when a 13 year old goat herder was ambushed and killed. His friend ran for help and the snake was prevented from eating the boy. There is the case of a mine worker who attempted to catch a large python in Transvaal, but the large snake got the better of him. Despite escaping its coils, he died in hospital the following day from a ruptured spleen and damaged kidneys.  



Often, on the internet photos are published of a poor unfortunate victim, protruding from the mouth or disemboweled stomach of a large snake. Usually, despite what the caption and story says, the snake is a Southeast Asian Reticulated Python, the species most often implicated in human predation. There is a photograph, involving what seems to be a female victim that is almost certainly genuine. The close-up photo shows the python in the process of swallowing the person. The fact that the arms are pinned in the coils, there is considerable blood on the victim's shirt and the head is well down in the snakes throat, would suggest that this is a genuine case of a python attempting, unsuccessfully to eat an adult human. There are several earlier and apparently reliable reports of Reticulated Pythons eating children in Indonesia.

There are also several well-documented cases of the keepers of large Reticulated and Burmese pythons being killed, but not eaten, by their pets. 

Mark O'shea

I created this website as a free service for snake lovers everywhere. I do it for the love of snakes. There are costs involved for hosting etc. If you found the site to be of use, please feel free to make a small donation towards these costs. Thank you...


The only difference between people who hate and love reptiles is that those who hate them never tried to know them.
Those who did become addicts. 
 Stan Gielewski








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