Large snakes have been known to devour large meals, but perhaps this one tips the scales.
Burmese Pythons, which are an invasive species that originated from Asia, are running loose in the wild in the Florida Everglades, and scientists just happened to trap and euthanize a very unique specimen that was approximately 14.2 feet long and weighed a hefty 106 pounds.
Image Credit: S. M. Boback et al., 2016
After the necropsy was completed, the scientists discovered that the massive snake devoured three white-tailed deer, a possible record-breaker for the region. One was an adult, while the other two were fawns. It's believed that the snake laid in wait in a nearby water patch and struck the deer by surprised.
As much as 14 pounds of fecal matter, measuring 31.1 inches in length, was discovered inside of the snake, which compared to only about 13% of the snake’s body mass. Inside the fecal matter, scientists uncovered a ton of undigested bits, including bones, hooves, teeth, and even hairballs of fur.
According to a journal entry in BioInvasions Records, the snake most likely ate the deer in rapid succession within just 87 days of time. This is an unusually short amount of time for a snake like this to eat so much, so either our understanding of their diet schedule isn’t quite up to par, or this was a special case.
“If a python is capable of eating three deer in three months, what else are they eating that we don't know about? We don't even know how many of them are out there [in the Everglades],” lead researcher Scott Boback said.
“This is the first report of an invasive Burmese python containing the remains of multiple white-tailed deer in its gut. Because the largest snakes native to southern Florida are not capable of consuming even mid-sized mammals, pythons likely represent a novel predatory threat to white-tailed deer in these habitats.”
Since scientists didn’t know Burmese Pythons could eat so much in such a short period of time, it raises curiosity as to what else they might be eating with such short notice, and how much. They could even be putting a dent in the white-tailed deer population, and we might not even know it.
They tend to go after mammals like bobcats, rabbits, raccoons, and other small-game animals that are easy to consume. Deer, on the other hand, are much larger and you’d expect them to eat less often because of the nutrition they can get from just one of the larger mammals.
On the other hand, this snake was a bit of a fatty. Let's hope not all Burmese Pythons in the area are this hungry.