24 January 2012

Southern Carpet Python - Morelia spilota subsp. imbricata

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Southern Carpet Python - Morelia spilota subsp. imbricata

The largest snake in the Esperance region growing to a good 2.5 metres. I saw one once crawling across a limestone track on its way to a rocky outcrop, so got a good look at it stretched out and I would have estimated it was closer to 3 metres in length. It was obviously an old snake and was looking a bit battered and worn. I walked up to it, there was no reaction to me and it just kept going along its way. I find this indifferent reaction common amongst the big old snakes; they are the top predator in their environment and don't try to disguise the fact.

Although these Carpet Pythons occur on some of the south coast islands and should by rights also exist on the mainland around Esperance, I have not seen them and if there are some, then they would be quite rare. The pythons I have seen have all been in the mallee country to the NE of Esperance on granite outcrops or exposed limestone with deep holes. Here they can sometimes be seen sunbaking outside on sunny mornings. They are not venomous, but can still give a very nasty bite, so best left well alone.

Pythons are easily identified by their size and broad arrow shaped head, it is the only python in the Esperance region so cannot be confused with any other. This particular species occurs in numerous habitats thoughout most of Australia and with such distribution there are a number of subspecies of which the local one is properly known as Morelia spilota subsp. imbricata. The larger mammals and possibly birds would make up most of this snakes diet, which makes me wonder if this reflects their numbers locally, particularly as so many medium sized mammals have gone locally extinct (see Mammals - An Overview).

Update January 2012
Two photos added, which were taken on non-digital film 14 years ago and only now retrieved. The python was around 2 metres (6’-7’) in length and in the process of digesting a recent meal (probably a rabbit), whilst resting part way down a limestone sinkhole, with a small opening (barely accessible for me) at the bottom. These sinkholes are common in the mallee region NE of Esperance, where relatively small open plains (several hectares/acres) are created when limestone is close to the surface, thereby restricting the root-growth of the larger trees and shrubs.