Fact Check

Alligator and Snake Photo

Does a photograph show a snake that burst trying to eat an alligator.?

Published Oct 5, 2005


Claim:   Photograph shows a snake that burst trying to eat an alligator.

Status:   Real photo; undetermined description.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2005]

Is this real?


Origins:   We're used to the idea that snakes can distend their jaws to swallow food many times the size of their own heads, but we're not quite used to idea that they might literally eat themselves to death trying to swallow prey too big for their own good (and body


That's supposedly what happened in the above-displayed photo taken in Florida's Everglades National Park on 26 September 2005: a 13-foot Burmese python attempted to swallow a 6-foot American alligator, resulting in both animals' being found dead with the gator's hind end protruding from the snake's burst midsection. Explanations claimed the python stretched too far trying to swallow the alligator, or the gator clawed a hole in the python with its back legs as the snake attempted to ingest it.

Given that the head of the python was missing (and apparently nowhere to be found), a possible alternative explanation is that the python ate an alligator (possibly an already-dead one it came across), and some other agent — probably human — killed the snake, chopped off its head, and cut open its midsection, exposing the as-yet undigested gator. Another theory is that the rotting gator meat inside the python caused a build-up of gases which ruptured the snake's body, and after the python died its head sank into the water, where it was eaten by scavengers. (Some pundits have even maintained that the snake was killed by a second alligator, which then ate the serpent's head.)

Three other gator-python encounters had been documented in the previous three years, all of which ended with the gator's successfully escaping from or killing its serpentine attacker.

Last updated:   11 April 2006

  Sources Sources:

    Kalette, Denise.   "Python Bursts After Trying to Eat Gator."

    Associated Press.   5 October 2005.

    BBC News.   "Snake Bursts After Gobbling Gator."

    5 October 2005.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

Article Tags