'Insane' photos show tick-infested snake lucky to be alive: 'Poor beastie'

A snake catcher said he hadn't heard of a situation this bad in a long time.

A snake riddled with ticks was lucky to survive after it was found in a horrifying condition which has shocked Australian snake catchers.

“I’ve seen plenty of snakes with one or two ticks on them,” snake catcher Troy Hovenden, better known as The Reptile Bloke in the Blue Mountains, told Yahoo News Australia, adding that he hadn’t heard of a situation this bad in almost a decade.

“There was a snake about eight or 10 years ago that another snake relocator came across and it was in a similar situation. It was absolutely covered in ticks.”

The snake with ticks on its head (left) and someone trying to remove the ticks from the snake's head (right).
The snake was found covered in ticks from a neighbour's home on the NSW Mid North Coast. Source: Facebook

In a series of photos taken on the New South Wales Mid North Coast and posted to the Australian Native Animals Facebook page on Sunday, a diamond python can be seen lying on stones and coated in the parasites. The local snake catcher who caught it from a neighbour’s property said he’d never seen anything like it.

With no emergency vets open in the area, and no wildlife rescue representatives nearby, the man said he was forced to act. “After speaking to FAWNA and Wires, we removed the majority of ticks around its head and then released it. Hopefully the next time it sheds all the ticks should come off as well,” he wrote online.

Snake's life saved

Hovenden praised the local snake catcher for removing as many ticks as he could from the non-venomous diamond python, saying his actions would have saved its life.

“When snakes get one or two ticks, it’s not an issue,” he explained. “It might feel a bit uncomfortable and itchy and annoy the snake, but it does nothing to harm them, and the snake just deals with it.

“When it’s that many however, the ticks will basically poison the snake and it would have almost certainly died if nothing had been done. Those ticks would have just been too much for it to deal with.”

The ticks in a bucket (left) and the snake being released (right).
The snake catcher said he tried to remove as many ticks as possible before he released the diamond python. Source: Facebook

Hovenden went on to explain that from “time to time” snakes are sometimes targeted by ticks if they’re already unwell. “If there's something wrong with the snake and it's immunocompromised, basically the ticks just take advantage of it,” he said.

“Sometimes what snakes will do if they have parasites on them is they’ll actually submerge themselves in water. So they’ll find a water source and literally submerge themselves in there for a time to drown the ticks.”

People triggered by images

The images of the python caused a stir online with one Facebook user describing the situation as “insane”. “I’ve never seen so many ticks on an animal,” another said. “Oh poor baby, that must have been so painful,” a third commented.

"Great job. Poor beastie must be feeling so much better," another person added.

While others claimed that the images made them “feel a bit sick seeing that many”, some said they were triggered by the photo and felt uneasy looking at it.

In some people the image may have triggered trypophobia, which is a strong fear of closely packed holes. Images of objects with small holes gathered close together can leave people feeling queasy, disgusted and distressed. While the snake photo of the snake with ticks doesn’t quite fit the bill, a quick glance at the photos was enough to set some viewers off.

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