Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Thirteen Foot Burmese Python Kills Owner

©1996 Steve Grenard Herpmed


Based on a New York Times Report by David Herszenhorn. Thursday - October 10, 1996.

According to the New York Times, 19-year old Grant Williams of 365 East 183rd Street Bronx died as the result of an attack by his 13 foot long Burmese Python which may have mistaken him as food.

The victim was found at about 1:30 PM on October 9th by a neighbor lying in a pool of blood with the snake coiled around his torso in the hallway of his apartment building. He was pronounced dead at Jacobi Medical Center. An ambulance crew removed the snake from the victim and it was taken to the Bronx Zoo.

According to the report, Williams and his 17 year old brother, Lamar, purchased the snake at a local pet store known as Pet City about five months ago for $300.00.

This attack may be a feeding related incident as a live chicken was found nearby, still in the box. Williams was apparently getting ready to feed the snake, out of its cage. Pythons, like other snakes, have an acute sense of smell. The detection of a food odor such as a chicken and the proximity of Williams to the snake evidently led the snake to mistake Williams as its prey or food.

This case, like others including cases seen by the undersigned in the E.R. indicate that prey items such as rodents, chickens or rabbits do not have to actually scent a human in order for a snake to attack them. The mere presence of the food in the vicinity can set off a sort of feeding frenzy. Therefore feeding snakes, especially large ones capable of inflicting significant injury or death, should be done with extreme caution.

HerpMed strongly recommends that owners of large boids feed them only in their enclosures or cages. Under no circumstances should such snakes be fed in the open or in a unrestrained manner. The mere presence of food in the vicinity can set off an attack as has been demonstrated countless times, often with tragic consequences.

Food should be inserted into the cage quickly and carefully, preferably using long-handled tongs such as barbecue tongs. It need not be alive and should be pre-killed to facilitate handling. It is important that a snake in olfactory contact with food or prey not be permitted access to its human caretaker. Feeding a large boid is not the same as feeding your dog or cat.

Large boids should not be allowed to free-roam. They can unpredictably attack anyone in the household or escape by pushing out a window or screen with relative ease. Anyone considering the acquisition of such an animal should have the space and funds to house it adequately and safely without resorting to allowing it free roaming privileges. Such snakes should not be handled before or after feeding for several days and then only if there are no olfactory stimuli to provoke a feeding attack. In addition such animals should not be handled unless two or more people are present capable of removing the snake should it attempt an attack. Many jurisdictions prohibit the keeping of such animals without proper permits or licenses. Doing so is not only a legal violation, it is a breech of the public safety -- your own, other members of your family and that of your neighbors and friends.

Questions, suggestions, comments for these guidelines are solicited. Please contact me.

Please feel free to republish this page or disseminate this information as widely as possible among the community of reptile hobbyists and keepers.

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