Snake cannibalism caught on camera

By Candice Marshall 24 October 2023
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In an example of nature at its absolute wildest, a python has been recorded eating a fellow python alive.

The gruesome scene – involving two black-headed pythons (Aspidites melanocephalus) played out in Far North Queensland at Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s (AWC) Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary.

“Fortunately for me – but not so fortunately for the python being consumed, it took around 15 minutes from when I first witnessed the initial constriction to the python finishing its meal and returning to its burrow which was only about 10 feet away,” says the Sanctuary’s manager, Nick Stock. “This gave me plenty of time to get a camera and document the event.”  

“It was a surprise at first, but I feel really fortunate to witness such an event,” he adds.

This wasn’t the first time Nick has had a front-row seat to such grisly events.

“I have previously witnessed black-headed pythons eating an eastern brown snake and a yellow-spotted monitor, however, this was the first time I witnessed a black-headed python eating another black-headed python.”

The black-headed python (Aspidites melanocephalus) retreats to a nearby burrow after consuming the fellow black-headed python. Image credit: Nick Stock/Australian Wildlife Conservancy

How common is python cannibalism?

Black-headed pythons have been known to eat one another occasionally in captivity, but witnessing and documenting a cannibalism event in the wild is rare, says AWC Wildlife Ecologist Dr Helena Stokes.

“Getting images or footage of such an event in the wild is quite unusual and lucky,” explains Helena.

“Black-headed pythons prefer to eat reptiles over mammals, and are known to eat larger reptiles, including goannas – and even venomous snakes – so I’m not surprised that they would consume another python if the opportunity arose,” she adds.

“And by consuming other individuals, they are also reducing competition for resources in the area.”