A Murray Darling carpet python (file image)
Experts say Australian snakes, such as this Murray Darling carpet python, can't eat adult sheep. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS

Sheep-eating snake added to Aussie animal mythology

Lachlan Coady June 30, 2022

An Australian farmer captured a giant snake after some of his sheep went missing.


False. The snake pictured is not found in Australia, with the photo likely taken in South Africa.

A gruesome image of a gigantic snake supposedly caught on an electric fence in Queensland is enough to put anyone off venturing to the Sunshine State.

A Facebook user posted the terrifying photo (screenshot here), claiming an “Aussie sheep farmer” found the creature on his North Queensland farm.

But the claim is false. Experts told AAP FactCheck the species of snake pictured is not found in Australia. Analysis of the image reveals it was most likely captured in 2002 on a South African game ranch.

The 2015 post has been shared more than 225,000 times. It features an image of the snake with the caption claiming the creature has a mouth-span of two feet (60cm).

Text with the post states: “Aussie sheep farmer was puzzled about the disappearance of some sheep on his farm in North Queensland. After a few weeks the farmer decided to put up an electric fence. About a week later, this is what he found!” 

Other posts of the picture on Twitter in 2015 and 2018 make similar claims that it is a sheep-eating snake caught on a farmer’s electric fence in Australia.

The image of the giant python caught on an electric fence.
 The image of a giant python caught on an electric fence was posted as being from Queensland. 

However, Dane Trembath, a technical officer specialising in herpetology at the Australian Museum, told AAP FactCheck the reptile is most likely a Southern African python (python natalensis), “which is not native to Australia”.

“This species can grow up to 5.8m in length and is more heavily built than any of the species of pythons in Australia,” he said in an email. “Within Australia, we have scrub pythons in Queensland which can grow to this length but are not as heavily built as they are long and slender.”

Glenn Shea, an expert on Australian reptiles and amphibians at the University of Sydney, said the snake was “certainly not an Australian species”. He said the post’s suggestion that the snake was responsible for eating sheep also didn’t ring true.

“Large Australian pythons have been reported killing and swallowing animals the size of large wallabies, an adult sheep would likely be too large for any Australian python to swallow,” Dr Shea told AAP FactCheck in an email.

A reverse image search reveals the photograph has been around for many years, with the earliest mention in 2002 on the now-defunct website of the Silent Valley Game Ranch in South Africa.

Text accompanying the game ranch’s post supports Mr Trembath’s identification.

“The snake in this picture had eaten a full grown impala ewe and, sadly, caught itself in an electric fence,” the text reads. “Over four metres in length, this was a large specimen. When the python was skinned we found a full grown impala ewe had just been swallowed.”

A reverse image search also reveals the photo has been used to suggest the snake was found in other countries including Angola, China, the US, UAE and Iraq.

The Verdict

The claim that a photo of a gigantic snake caught on a fence was taken in North Queensland is false. Snake experts told AAP FactCheck the species pictured is not found in Australia and is is most likely a Southern African python. Analysis of the image suggests it was taken in South Africa in 2002.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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