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Penn Giant Snake Eats Kittens

Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 15th, 2007

One hundred years ago, explorer Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett was sent by the Royal Geographic Society to make a thorough survey of the Rio Abuna and Acre Rivers. He encountered a Giant Snake. Today, sightings of a large serpent have stirred the media in the Midwest USA.

Giant Snakes

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Fawcett ran across his snake in 1907, as he was drifting along the Rio Negro. Fawcett shot the creature and finally examined it on the river bank where it came ashore. According to Fawcett, the snake measured 45 feet out of the water and 17 in it, for a total of 62 feet.

Dating from 1919, up through more recent sightings in 1975, a forty-foot snake was seen on the slopes of Big Top Mountain, Pennsylvania.

The 2007 reports out of Bristol, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, are of a small serpent by comparison, a 9-foot-long snake said to be on the loose, and reportedly eating several kittens. The Bucks County Giant Snake has yet to be captured.

One of the most famous Giant Snake sighting series from the USA’s Midwest was that of the “Peninsula Python” in Ohio, in 1944. The media attention of these new wave of sightings in 2007, in Pennsylvania, may soon rival the hysteria of the “Peninsula Python,” during the modern age of the Internet. Even though the chances are rather high this 2007 one is based on an escaped pet (as shown below from Indiana), watch for more news coming out of the traditionally weird Bucks County, Pennsylvania area on this great serpent.

Giant Snakes

Dated to August 11, 2006, Seth Pickett (from left), Clayton Grahm and Joey Woodruff, three Hamilton County boaters, hold the 19-foot python they discovered on the banks of the White River near Strawtown, a community north of Noblesville, Indiana. — Tim Miller / Indianapolis Star (Credit: Chad Arment)

Here is the essential details of the news out of Bucks County, Pennsylvania:

Residents have been looking for, and reporting fleeting sightings of, the snake since the headless carcass of a stray cat was found under a house last week. The next day the carcass was gone, and neighbors said a cat that was raising seven kittens under the house now has only four.

Animal control officers, police and a plumber descended on the house to try to capture the snake, which they said was most likely a boa or python.

Bristol Township officials caught a 9 1/2-foot albino Burmese python on Wednesday but it was an albino and authorities said they snake they are searching for is thought to be dark colored. The snake that was captured escaped from a vehicle and authorities found the owner. Both snakes are believed to be escaped pets.

Bart Krause, Bristol’s animal control officer, and William Kurko, his counterpart in Bristol Township, set a metal trap with a pigeon inside to lure the reptile. The pigeon’s wing was injured and the trap’s door was tripped Tuesday night [June 12, 2007], but Kurko theorized the snake was not all the way inside and pulled itself out under the door.

Thursday [June 14, 2007], with the help of a Bristol Township police officer and snake expert Steve Sonacki, the men set off canisters of fumigation fog in an unsuccessful effort to “smoke out” the snake. And a plumber threaded his remote camera in under the house, but found no sign of the reptile. – partially from “Search is on for 9-foot snake in Bristol, Bucks County,” Associated Press, June 15, 2007.

Snakes

The ultimate Giant Snake of the Midwest, The Great Serpent Mound in Ohio may represent a giant snake swallowing an egg.

For more on this topic, see the Chapter 8, “Giant Snakes” in Mysterious America (2007), and recent postings here: Snakes on Plains and Snakes on Plains – Part Deux.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


19 Responses to “Penn Giant Snake Eats Kittens”

  1. mystery_man responds:

    I find it really strange that a headless carcass was found and then the day after that the body disappeared. This is just not keeping with the way snakes eat. It would be highly unusual for a snake to bite off the head of a kitten and then leave the body for later, especially if this is a python of some sort. It would have killed and eaten the cat in one sitting, swallowing it whole. Pythons kill by constricting the prey to the point that it cannot breathe, effectively asphyxiating it. A constrictor will tighten their grip with every exhale of the prey animal until it cannot breathe, after which they proceed to detach their jaw and swallow it. Often this prey will be larger than what you might think it possible for it to be capable of consuming, so it is a good thing that kittens are the only victims so far. Contrary to what many think, they do not crush their prey, and they do not have jaws designed for chewing. They will not bite off chunks like that, or tear the head off their prey. A snake will kill and eat its prey whole, not chewing off body parts and not leaving the body laying around for something else to find. I don’t know how that cat lost its head, but I doubt it was the snake that did it.

  2. jodzilla responds:

    Let me get this straight. Officials caught a 9 1/2-foot long Burmese python, but it was the WRONG 9-foot long python? They were able to profile the snake because it was an albino? What’s going on! How many pythons can there be in this town? I hope they catch them all. Giant snakes freak me out.

  3. fuzzy responds:

    Prob’ly otters.

  4. mystery_man responds:

    In a line.

  5. Ceroill responds:

    mystery_man, I agree completely. That is not the behavior of a snake, either venomous or constricting. Both consume their prey whole. It does, however remind me of the way housecats sometimes deal with chipmunks and other critters they bring home as ‘gifts’ to the household. On a purely speculative supposition, perhaps this was the result of one of the elusive black ‘panthers’ or maned cats sometimes seen.

  6. wrath of the real responds:

    snakes generally don’t eat cats because of the damage inflicted by their claws are too great.

  7. Loren Coleman responds:

    Apparently, some large snakes do eat cats:

    However, the report here from Bucks County mentioned specifically “kittens,” not full-grown cats.

    Biting the head off a kitten sounds more like a Tom’s (a male cat’s) behavior. That the carcass disappeared overnight probably has nothing to do with it being dragged off or eaten by another predator.

    Where’s Philly’s Animal CSI when you need ‘em?

  8. Gihdora responds:

    Snakes only eat their prey whole – no exceptions… There are plenty of cases of large snakes in the US being escaped pets, especially in Florida where we have a healthy (and undieing) wild population of Burmese Pythons. The largest Burmese found in Florida yet was a 16 footer, and a freind of mine working for Everglades National part caught a 14-footer and has caught several 13-12-11 footers – pretty usual for a snake that is 9 feet long withing 2 yeard. But, completely unknown (nonexotic) snakes arn’t unheard of in the US – also in Florida there was a completely unknown snake called the South Florida Rainbow snake found hundreds of miles from any other Rainbow snake populations… There were three specimens found of it EVER – all between 1949 and 1951.
    America is not 100% explored yet, there’s still a few things hiding out there and a few adventures to be had ;-)

  9. eyeofnewt responds:

    Good to know the Pennsylvania snakes are still around. While not exactly a giant at 9′, if memory serves this equals or exceeds the record length for any U.S. domestic species.

  10. Gihdora responds:

    Yeah, largest US recognised US snake is the eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais couperi) the biggest ever found has been 9 ft-ish. 8 ft is a huge indigo.

  11. SharkFisher responds:

    The proximity of the headless cat and kitten disappearances may just be coincidence, but this is pretty cool about two different snakes in the area. Apparently there is a good sized population in the Florida Everglades, why not the rest of the U.S.?

    Not sure how cryptid this is though.

  12. Gihdora responds:

    Temperatures limit the spread of most large snakes in the US, and most think that any freeze would kill off species such as Burmese Pythons, though a few people high up in the Python study in Florida/Everglades National park seem to think that once they “spread out” Pythons will have a range similar to the American Alligator… I guess time will tell.

  13. Remobec responds:

    Don’t know if this is relevant, but when I was a kid my brother and I used to raise rabbits. We were in the San Fernando Valley (L.A.’s suburb). I’m not that old, so it wasn’t that many years ago–not back in the day when it was all fruit trees.

    One day, apparently, we forgot to close one of the cage doors. When we came out in the morning there was a headless bunny in the yard. The rest of it was unmarked. It was a rather young bunny–maybe a couple weeks old, so it didn’t have a lot of defenses. We have rattlers and other snakes in the area, but I’ve never seen or heard any in my neighborhood. Our yard was maybe 1/8 or 1/4 of an acre–not terribly big. All fenced in by brick walls. We have dogs so cats aren’t seen too often in our yard, and I think at that time they were very rare in the neighborhood.

    Anyway, I always found it so odd that just its head would be eaten. But the most logical answer would be a cat. (Our own dogs were inside at night… even if they had been let out, they would not have eaten a rabbit.)

    I would guess that the culprit in the Pennsylvania case was a coyote or mountain lion.

  14. mrbf2007 responds:

    Wow, I used to live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and I had no idea this happened in that area. Amazing story. Thanks, Loren.

  15. asrai responds:

    Wow pythons in Penn uh? Interesting. It could have been pretty much anything that ate those kittens and cat but I’m guessing coyote. I have coyotes where I live and they are always leaving headless cats around. As for the python, I don’t think they have anything to do with the cats. they don’t have the ability to bite chunks off of animals they kill.

    If they really have seen some snakes that are 45 feet long my guess is that they would be reticulated pythons. They are the longest pythons but not the heaviest (anaconda).

  16. Mnynames responds:

    OK, not that I buy the kitten-eating python theory either, but, considering the size difference between the 2 animals, might the snake have squeezed the kitten so tightly that his head popped off, and then he did what he usually does, and started by eating the head. Perhaps he was interrupted before he could continue, but returned later for the rest? Plausible anyway, if somewhat unlikely…

    As a (Likely completely unrelated) side note, I had a cat named Minerva once who avidly hunted birds and voles, and always ate their heads off, leaving the bodies for us to find as presents.

  17. mystery_man responds:

    Mnynames- I have never heard of a snakes popping off the head of its prey like that, and I have owned boas and a Burmese python. Even when fed prey much smaller than themselves, I have never seen this happen, not even a popped out eye much less the whole head. Also, remember that the snake does not actually crush its prey, but rather squeezes it hard enough to suffocate it, basically keeping the animal from inhaling. It would take a pretty large amount of crushing force to pop a kitten’s head off and this is just not how the snakes kill their prey. I am skeptical of that theory.

  18. Mnynames responds:

    Well, like any good Fortean, I don’t necessarily believe the theories I express either, I was just throwing it out there for discussion…

  19. mystery_man responds:

    Mnynames- Well, that is a good thing. Keep throwing them out there. I love hearing everyone’s theories and I wasn’t trying to dismiss what you said, just illustrating the unlikliness of it. Nothing wrong with throwing these things out for discussion!



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