SA farmer spots snake swallowing another snake
A South Australian farmer has stumbled across a brown snake eating another brown snake.
Shaun Taylor, from Bordertown in the state’s south-east, was testing moisture levels in haybales when he almost stepped on the snakes.
“Initially I didn’t know what was actually happening because all I could see was one head and two tails,” he said.
“On a bit of a closer inspection I realised that one of the adult snakes was actually eating the other, fairly large, adult snake that was not that different in size.”
Mr Taylor said snakes usually slither out of his way before he has a chance to see them.
“The biggest scare was that it was actually still sitting there only about two or three metres away from me,” he said.
“The snake was definitely aware of my presence, so I kept a safe distance and just let it do its thing.”
Brown snakes are known to eat other snakes, but it’s not common for the action to be caught on camera. (Supplied: Shaun Taylor)
Mr Taylor said when he first came across the eastern brown snakes, one was curled around the other and the second snake was not moving.
He said when he returned to the scene after about half an hour both of the creatures were gone.
Brown snakes often eat each other
James Nankivell, who is studying snakes at the University of Adelaide, said it was not uncommon for snakes to cannibalise one another.
“The most unusual thing about this is the fact that the snakes are pretty much the same size,” he said.
“More frequently you would see a larger snake eating a smaller snake that it comes across.
“Snakes in general are quite opportunistic.
“Brown snakes are large, they’re generalists, they’ll try and eat anything smaller than them.
“Brown snakes have been recorded eating other snakes reasonably frequently, both the same species or other, smaller species, and have been recorded being eaten by other species.”
Mr Nankivell said the snake may have found the animal too large to process and could have regurgitated it at a later stage.
It is not clear if the snake consumed the other snake because it was hungry, or if it was part of a fight.
The animals usually eat mice and rats.
Mr Nankivell said a recent study showed cobra snakes would often kill other cobra snakes after combat, and it is possible that may be what happened in this instance.
“The paper recorded that male cape cobras, if they succeed in winning one of these combat situations with a smaller male would actually eat them,” he said.
“They found that male cape cobras very frequently had smaller male cape cobras inside them — but they didn’t record females cannibalising their own species.”