Known as one of the world's most venomous snakes, the eastern brown of Australia is a formidable predator. On Monday, a woman hanging up laundry in Goodna, near Brisbane, got quite a startle when she discovered one on her patio.
The large eastern brown snake (Pseudonaja textilis) had attacked and bitten a nonvenomous carpet python, says Sally Hill, who runs a professional snake removal business in the area—N & S Snakecatcher—with her husband Norm.
The neurotoxic venom of an eastern brown can kill a human being within 15 minutes if not treated with antivenin. After the initial battle, the eastern brown retreated for a few minutes. When the python slipped into death—thanks to the powerful venom—the other snake returned and began swallowing its prey whole.
The homeowner called the Hills, who quickly arrived on the scene (and filmed some of it on their cell phones).
"It’s unusual to see this—it was quite incredible," says Sally Hill. (Watch a python devour, then regurgitate, an antelope.)
To allow the eastern brown to finish its meal, the Hills gently guided it into a black snake bag, where it could feel more secure. They left it there for about three hours, until it completely swallowed the sizable python.
"We weren't sure if it would be able to, but it did," says Hill.
After that, the Hills took the snake several miles out of town to a wilderness area and released it. The snake never regurgitated its giant meal, a sign that it was not overly stressed, and it seemed to be healthy as it returned to the bush.
The whole encounter was quite unusual, as eastern browns aren't known to regularly feed on carpet pythons, says Hill. Eastern browns are more commonly seen feasting on mice, rats, and birds. They are occasionally seen eating their own kind or other, smaller snakes.
"I think any snake catcher would have loved to see that," says Hill.
With recent warm weather in Queensland, the Hills have had several other encounters with eastern browns, which tend to be more active with warmer temperatures. The Hills removed one that someone found under their pillow. Another person called to report one stuck under their car. Another reported a snake stuck in netting.
Found along Australia's East Coast, the eastern brown lives in a variety of habitats and is most active during the day, meaning it is frequently seen. The snake has an average length of three and a half to nearly six feet.
Carpet pythons (Morelia spilota) can grow up to 13 feet long and weigh up to 33 pounds, although the average adult size is about six and a half feet long. They are semi-arboreal, meaning they spend much of their time in trees, and are largely nocturnal.