Snake caught in ‘bizarre’ act in Aussie backyard: ‘Hasn’t happened before’

A snake catcher said he's never seen a snake behaving this way and it could all be due to the weather.

The carpet python eating the dead bird on the grass.
Snake catchers were shocked to discover the carpet coastal python eating the bird which had already been killed. Source: Facebook/Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers 24/7

Aussie snake catchers have been left speechless after a coastal carpet python was found chomping down a meal it hadn’t caught itself. In a photo, the snake can be seen halfway through a large black bird, known as a Currawong, that had been killed hours earlier by a backyard dog.

“It is certainly rarer given what species it is,” Brandon Gifford from Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers 24/7 told Yahoo News Australia. “Carpet pythons are a real ambush predator and rely on heat sensory pits to pick up the infrared thermal radiation that’s around.”

Usually, the snake catcher said, carpet pythons will lie in wait for a prey to get closer to them before launching out at it. Usually it’s in the middle of the night in complete darkness.

For a carpet python to go after a bird that has already died in an act of scavenging over active hunting is extremely odd.

“It’s bizarre behaviour,” Gifford said. “It’s even more bizarre how quickly it happened. That someone’s pet dog killed the Currawong and then the snake came into the backyard and found it.

“It’s definitely weird behaviour. And it hasn’t happened since I’ve been in the business that we’ve attended a job where there’s something getting eaten that has already been killed.”

A coastal carpet python on the ground.
Carpet pythons usually just lie in wait for their pray to pass them before launching at it. Source: Wildlife QLD

Firstly, we can blame the weather. With a constant rise and fall in temps, snakes are getting very confused.

Normally, they’re taking it easy in brumation, which is a type of hibernation except the snakes will come out from time to time to lay about in the sun. But usually they won’t stop for a nibble because it needs to be hot enough for long enough for their bodies to digest a meal.

“I do definitely think it was [caused by] that spike in temperature,” the snake catcher says, referring to the incident in Kallangur in Moreton Bay. “I think that last week everything just went bang.”

And it’s not the only case of “really weird behaviour” this winter, with a snake recently going after a stingray and another coastal carpet python taking down a pigeon.

While Gifford said another reason why the snake could have gone after the dead Currawong could have just been opportunity. Or, maybe there was something wrong with the snake and it was desperate for a meal.

“During that May to September period, a lot of them won’t feed at all — a real healthy individual can go for a whole 12 months without ever feeding — but the ones that do are usually compromised.

“Like any snakes that were sick in summer and just can't afford to go with through winter without any of their energy stores.”

A Currawong on grass.
The Currawong was already dead by the time the coastal carpet python got to it. Source: Birds of the World

So with more snakes out on the prowl, Gifford said it was a timely reminder to look out for your pets.

“Last week, we had two pets eaten in one day, so pets are still getting grabbed throughout winter when people don’t expect it,” he said. “And the reason both animals died last week was that latches were left open.”

He urged owners to always keep their pets secure, and if they can, bring them inside, especially at night and particularly in south east Queensland, which Gifford referred to as the “hot spot” for snakes.

“And get out and DIY those enclosures,” he explained. “If you’ve got mesh that’s not like a chicken mesh, get out and put small, fine mesh over cages because snakes can get through.”

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