How to pacify a python
2014-05-23, Hazel Knowles

It’s you against a five-meter-long python and the life of your pet dog is in the balance. What kind of weapons and factors will help swing the contest in your favor?

A small bottle of alcohol, fearlessness and an ability to yank hard and keep pulling will give you a decent chance of saving your dog from the python’s deadly grip, according to python expert and snake catcher Dave Willott.

Dog walkers should consider carrying a bottle of isopropyl alcohol, which can be bought from pharmacies, he said. An effective way to get a python to release its grip is to pour the alcohol into its mouth or nose.

When a python is feeding, its windpipe comes out of the corner of its mouth to allow it to breath and if you can identify this, pour the alcohol here as it will go straight down its throat and distract it from the task in hand. Beating a python on the head or the body may work but they have thick skulls and are likely to tighten rather than loosen their grip under such an assault.

If you have no alcohol and nothing else at hand, the best approach is to grab the python’s tail and pull as hard as you can, Willott says. “You’ve got to go for the tail and start yanking and pulling it,” he said, explaining that pythons get disoriented when they are not anchored to the ground.

“The snake might tighten up at first. It doesn’t really like the idea of not being anchored down and that’s what they do. They constrict. But if you’re aggressive enough towards it and you get its tail and start walking backwards and pulling it, it will let go.”

Wrestling with a fully-grown python is a “daunting, scary task”, Willott said, and takes a big dose of courage and conviction for someone not used to handling a snake.

He cited the case of Catherine Leonard who in 2007 punched and pulled a 4.5 meter python — possibly the same one that killed the Heyrings’ dog last Saturday — off her 20-kg pet husky Poppy.

“She just went for it and that’s what you have to do,” said Willott. “She was really brave. Her dog was like her kid, and she wasn’t going to let go.”


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