Carpet Snake or Carpet Python

Morelia spilota

Carpet Snake (Morelia spilota) Head of Carpet Python, Morelia spilota, showing heat sensitive pits along jaw-line and forked tongue.

Identification:

Carpet snakes are extremely variable in colour and pattern.  Most specimens are olive green, with pale, dark-edged blotches, stripes or cross-bands.  The juveniles are similarly patterned, but often in shades of brown rather than olive green.  A row of deep pits can be seen along the lower jaw and many small scales are present on the top of the head.  This species can grow to more than 3 m in length.  Midbody scale rows 40–65; ventrals 240–310, narrow; anal single; subcaudals divided 60–95.

Morelia spilota distributionDistribution:

This species is widespread and found throughout northern, eastern and southern Australia.

Habitat:

Lives in open forests, rainforests, coastal heaths, rural lands, park lands and suburban gardens.

Habits:

This snake is active both day and night and can be encountered on the ground, in trees or buildings (particularly chicken pens, barns and attics).

Danger:

This species is non-venomous, but tetanus protection is recommended following bites.

Food:

Feeds on frogs, lizards, birds, mammals.  Cane Toads are sometime taken as prey with fatal consequences for the snake.

Breeding:

10–47 eggs are laid in early summer.  The eggs are concealed in a sheltered site (beneath building materials, between hay bales, hollow stump or a depression in ground) and are incubated by the female who will `shiver' to generate heat.  The female leaves the nest to bask in the morning sun and returns to her eggs in a pre-heated condition.  Nesting females will defend their eggs.   The hatchling snakes measure around 39 cm from the snout to the base of the tail (snout-vent length).

Similar species:

This species is most similar to the Spotted Python, Antaresia maculosa, which is fawn to brown with numerous dark purplish-brown blotches.  Adult Spotted Pythons are much smaller than Carpet Snakes and have 3 scales across the top of the head in a straight line between the eyes.

Additional Information:

Carpet pythons are extremely diverse in appearance and seven geographical races or subspecies are recognised:

  • Morelia spilota spilota - eastern New South Wales and north-eastern Victoria;
  • M. s. bredli - central Australia;
  • M. s. mcdowelli - north-eastern New South Wales and eastern Queensland;
  • M. s. cheynei - Wet Tropics area of north-eastern Queensland;
  • M. s. metcalfei - Murray/Darling drainage;
  • M. s. imbricata - southern Western Australia;
  • M. s. variegata - northern Northern Territory and Western Australia. 

Male Carpet Snakes have been observed fighting in spring.

Carpet Python (Morelia spilota) Carpet Python in rafters of toolshed.

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