Writhing terror lurking on the riverside

Since Saturday July 7, the local police, firefighters and Animal Rescue Poland Foundation’s specialists are after a giant Indian python that has been reportedly roaming the southern suburban area of Warsaw.

On Sunday, the Crisis Management Team of the Piaseczno District south of Warsaw decided to extent the search methods beyond land and water and to attempt localizing the giant snake from above using a drone.

According to the head of the local crisis management department, the current weather conditions are ideal for the python as it is “stuffy, humid and it has been hot for the past few days.” The official also stated that food is plenty in the local area.

Many tracks leading out of and into the water were left in the mud on the riverbanks. The marks are long and about 40 centimeters wide.

Reports of accidental passersby came from the town of Otwock located on the eastern bank of the Vistula river. According to private broadcaster TVN24, a fisherman allegedly spotted the python launching itself upon a beaver, then fleeing downstream with the river flow. The witness reports that the snake’s head is almost as big as two fists.

On Tuesday night the search team crossed the river, where it caught a glimpse “of something resembling a snake”, however, due to heavy rain on Wednesday morning, the search was suspended until Thursday.

The head of Animal Rescue Poland Foundation, Dawid Fabiański, said that “civilians should remain cautious” and that the animal “moves in water with speed of 7 km per hour.”

Due to heavy rain on Wednesday morning, the search was suspended until Thursday. Photo: Animal Rescue Poland

Straight from the snake’s mouth

Adam Hryniewicz of the Warsaw Zoo’s serpentarium presumed that the snake is a female, because males are usually smaller. Moreover, Mr Hryniewicz said that the python may attack a human only when feeling threatened.

The expert said that the python strangles its prey using its strength and size. A mature species can reach the length of 8 meters and weight 100 kg. The one roaming Vistula’s riverside may weight about 50 kg.

The python attacks only the animals that it can devour such as big rabbits, hens, cats or dogs. However, according to Mr Hryniewicz, “stories about pythons with a taste for human flesh, cows and deers are absurd.”

“A python is capable of eating two, perhaps three, rabbits at a time. Afterwards it needs to take a break from feasting for a week or a month,” explained the expert, adding that “if it’s warm, these processes are faster and the interperiod between meals might shrink down to two weeks.”

Indian pythons live 25-30 years but are not be found in Europe. They prefer the warmth of Asia, Africa, Australia and South America. The snake could survive in the Vistula’s surroundings only until fall. “In autumn it will already be too cold for it to thrive.”

When asked whether it is possible that it crossed the river to Otwock city, Mr Hryniewicz gave a doubtful response. “The Vistula’s current is very strong, so I think that it might have taken it much further down the river. I don’t think the snake swam across to the other side in a straight line,” said the expert adding that “I think he is still on the same side of the river.”

“It is also noteworthy that pythons do not dig holes in the ground,” noticed Mr Hryniewicz. The snake moves 3-4 km per hour on land. Although not being poisonous, the snake may wrap around a limb and crush it or strangle its opponent.

“If stumbled upon, the snake should not be bothered,” said the expert, adding that “it may kill a human only when defending itself.” If the snake is caught, it will be transported to an animal shelter.

The 5.3 meters long and 50 kg heavy Indian python may be hungry after dropping its slough. Photo: Animal Rescue Poland