It was like watching a scene right out of a horror flick. The snake had coiled around the baby, and each time it contracted, it crushed it even more. The woman recording the chilling scenario just stood there in shock, unable to believe her eyes. But, it didn’t take long for the snake to learn that this meal was going to leave it with a lot more problems than simple indigestion. This python had messed with the wrong baby possum.
If it hadn’t been for Christine Birch Williams, who lives in Mackay, Queensland in Northeastern Australia, this stunning encounter would have never been seen by the world. Now, Australia is known for having an array of exotic animals, many of whom are poisonous or are a threat to people. But Australians have learned to co-exist with these dangerous creatures in the land down under. Christine didn’t mind being surrounded by a bunch of animals that slithered.
Although Mackay is certainly an urbanized modern city, certain creatures will still find a way to pop up in people’s yards at any given time. It’s possible that this is because the city is located on the Pioneer River, which has a number of wildlife roaming around the area. Despite knowing what to expect from the area where she was living, Christine couldn’t stop herself from being jumpy the moment she noticed that there was an uninvited visitor hanging in her yard: a carpet python.
It’s known as the diamond python, Morelia spilota, or carpet python, and one of the largest snakes living in South Pacific islands like Australia, and New Guinea. It eats small animals like lizards and birds, but will constrict prey that are too big. It’s not uncommon to find these creatures slithering in urban zones because they’re usually quite docile and help keep the pest population in check. So, when Christine saw that a python was residing in her yard, she didn’t really bat an eyelash—but one night changed everything.
In 2015, Christine was about to hit the hay, but first she made sure all the lights in the house were off. Then, she noticed something was moving outside by the back door. When she took a closer look, she noticed a python slithering around the clay tiles as if it were hunting. Then Christine noticed a female possum with a baby possum riding on top of her. In an instant, the snake jumped and snatched the baby possum, and this left Christine frozen in terror.
Christine immediately grabbed a camera and rushed over to the back door to capture the horrifying scenario. In less than no time, the python had coiled around the horrified baby possum, who was moving around and trying to resist its predator. Christine assumed that this would be over in an instant since possums are a regular form of sustenance for pythons. But the snake wasn’t prepared to face the fury of the momma possum and neither was Christine.
The mother possum was fearless, even though she knew the python could end her. But she didn’t care. She just took out her claws and her teeth and started ripping into the reptile. The python clearly didn’t expect this meal to be so difficult to attain and was obviously confused. Since its body was coiled around the baby possum, it couldn’t really defend itself against the momma possum. But that didn’t mean it was about to let go of its meal anytime soon.
Constriction is an efficient way of doing away with prey. And although most people assumed that snakes used this tactic to crush bones and suffocate their victims, new studies suggest that this is the way they cut off the blood supply to their prey’s brain and heart. The lack of glucose and oxygen causes the organs to shut down, and all of this occurs in a split second. So, it might have appeared as though this baby possum was a goner… but the momma possum was not about to give up and she had a few ideas on how to deal with this foe.
Despite what you might have heard, possums are not aggressive at all. They’re actually very gentle. In fact, when dealing with a threat, they’ll pretend they’re not alive and hope that the predator will go away. But possums have sharp teeth and claws and they will use these when needed. Like other mammals, momma possums will protect their children, which was clearly demonstrated by the way this momma possum reacted in Christine’s yard.
As amazing a predator as this carpet python was, there was no way it could defeat that momma possum. The tiny creature was running on pure maternal instincts and let the snake have it. She clawed and bit the creature but was too busy trying to save her child to realize her actions were being recorded by a human. Finally, after several tense seconds of struggling, something that seemed incredible had occurred.
The python had no choice but to give up its dinner. Even as the momma possum continued her attack, the python began to loosen its hold on the baby possum. Once the baby was free, it took a big breath while the snake made an embarrassing retreat. Now the momma possum was able to check up on her child. The baby possum seemed to be okay despite the ordeal and Christine still couldn’t believe what she’d witnessed.
The possums stood there, trying to catch their breaths as the python slithered away. Then, the baby possum got on its mother’s back and the two went off to live another day while Christine came to grips with the amazing battle she had just witnessed. The footage she took remained a part of her for three years. Then, one Mother’s Day, she decided to give the momma possum a lovely shout-out with the footage.
On May 5, 2018, Christine went on Twitter and posted photos of the wild battle, which she captioned: “#victory makes this Mother’s Day. This was an amazing battle to document.” Then, Queensland snake catcher, Stuart McKenzie, caught wind of the post and published the photos on his Facebook page. His post went viral and received over 2,000 shares. But not everyone was pleased with Christine’s lack of action.
Many users were horrified that Christine just stood there recording the battle, but never bothered to get in there and help the baby possum. But Christine knew that the snake had acted on instinct, so the criticism she received didn’t bother her. She wrote: “Yes, I took photos and didn’t interfere with nature. The python lives a happy life in my courtyard.” And other people had the same philosophy.
McKenzie responded to some of the negative comments by writing: “As hard as this would be to watch… this is all a part of nature. Would I interfere and save the baby if I was there at the time? Hard to say. In one hand it would be horrible to watch, on the other hand, the snake has earned his meal.” Obviously, not everyone has the stomach to stand there and witness what Christine saw, but under these circumstances, it’s better to let nature do its thing. Wouldn’t you agree?