Unscheduled Constriction

How would a coroner rule this? Death by misadventure?

A snake owner was killed by an 8ft (2.4m) pet python he called his “baby”, an inquest has heard.

Daniel Brandon, 31, died from asphyxiation at his home near Basingstoke, Hampshire, on 25 August.

One of the pets – a female African rock python named Tiny – was found near his body, out of its pen.

Coroner Andrew Bradley said there was no doubt Mr Brandon died “as a result of contact with Tiny” and he recorded a verdict of misadventure.

Mr Brandon had kept snakes for 16 years and Tiny was one of 10 snakes and 12 tarantulas he kept in his room at the family home, North Hampshire Coroner’s Court heard.

His mother Barbara Brandon said her son had owned Tiny since it was small enough to fit in his hand.

She told the court on the night of her son’s death she heard a bang coming from his room, but had assumed it was a dumbbell falling or that he knocked something over.

She later discovered Mr Brandon unconscious in his bedroom and later found the snake coiled under a cabinet.

I once spoke with a chap who knew a bit about pythons, shortly after a pet killed a toddler in Florida in 2011. He said they are more than capable of killing a human being, but they rarely try because there is easier prey around. The key, the chap told me, is to ensure they’re fed; if they get hungry, they’ll start eating things they’re not supposed to.

He never felt threatened by Tiny and was aware of how strong it was, she said, but there were occasions when it would “strike out” if she entered the room.

This doesn’t sound good. Pythons can give you a nasty bite similar to that of a dog. Would you keep a dog in the house that tried to bite people?

Mr Bradley said: “The most likely scenario is that Tiny was engaged with Dan – I have no doubt about that.

“She was coiling around him, at which point I have no idea. There was a point at which either she takes hold of him unexpectedly or trips him up or some other mechanism.”

When playing with dogs you need to make sure you don’t do something which triggers them into reacting aggressively, and dogs are generally amiable creatures which can be trained. What bond a human can have with a snake I don’t know, but I can’t imagine the relationship is ever that secure.

However, reptile expert Prof John Cooper, who examined Tiny at the Brandons’ home in November, told the court Mr Brandon “would have known how to unwrap a python”.

Is that always possible? Presumably it is if a reptile expert is saying so, but I always imagined any unwrapping I’ve seen on TV was done with the consent of the python.

Prof Cooper also inspected the skin that Tiny shed later that month and said if the snake had coiled around Mr Brandon, there would have been scratches visible on the snake’s skin caused by him trying to get the reptile off – but there were none.

Oh! Perhaps Tiny has been framed, then? Either way, it’s pretty sad for his family:

“I cry every day and night and relive that evening all the time,” she said. “All the family wanted was answers to our questions, and I have no idea yet whether we have that or will.”

I am confident my demise will not occur in similar fashion to that of Mr Brandon. I quite like seeing big snakes, provided they are behind an inch of glass and I am in a zoo. Otherwise I’ll keep well clear; they terrify me.

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22 thoughts on “Unscheduled Constriction

  1. When I lived in SA I worked with a bloke who was an amateur herpetologist. He kept pythons, cobras and the more harmless grass snakes. He once told me that it was a sure fire way of guaranteeing that his house would never be burgled. Africans are petrified of snakes (and praying mantises).

  2. A college I worked at ran veterinary courses and had several pythons – all smaller than this one. The tutor who ran the “Small Animal Handling” courses said that they prefer to use minimum energy to kill their prey; they just wrap around the ribcage. It doesn’t even seem dangerous until you exhale, and the bastard tightens just a little bit, so you can’t inhale fully. The process repeats until you are dead.

    If I were Dan, I would have tried to use that time in locating and plugging in the Black & Decker. Or maybe the soldering iron.

    I once saw a website (American) about choosing the type of pet that would suit your lifestyle. First bit of advice: “Don’t choose a pet that you are not reasonably certain of defeating in unarmed combat!”

  3. It doesn’t even seem dangerous until you exhale, and the bastard tightens just a little bit, so you can’t inhale fully. The process repeats until you are dead.

    Indeed, one of the Willard Price books explained this process: they don’t “crush” their prey, they do exactly as you say, wait until you breathe out then tighten up a bit. Horrifying, which is why I stay well clear.

  4. Henry,

    Yeah, me too. I read all of them I think, very informative. Probably banned now, thought: I don’t recall many women in them.

  5. There’s been a re-launch of the Hal and Roger books written by Anthony McGowan. Now the protagonists are Hal’s son and Roger’s daughter. I’ve yet to read them so can’t say if they have been tarnished by excessive political correctness.

  6. I’ve yet to read them so can’t say if they have been tarnished by excessive political correctness.

    I very much doubt they’re touring the world collecting rare species for their father’s zoo on Long Island!

  7. Ah I remember Willard Price’s books too! Still have them in the loft somewhere.

    Not a fan of snakes, and can’t see why people want them a pets. I worked as a teaching assistant at an agricultural college one time, worst part for me was having to supervise/support the kids when cleaning out and feeding the reptiles (and don’t remind me of the time I had a python draped over my shoulders at Sinapore Night Safari!)

  8. When we lived in Queensland the daughter of a friend was bitten on the foot by a tree python. It was off-to-hopital for an injection to protect her from whatever nasties it had accumulated from its diet of rats and such.

  9. Tiny was one of 10 snakes and 12 tarantulas he kept in his room at the family home

    The most likely scenario is that Tiny was engaged with Dan – I have no doubt about that.

    There it is. I knew there was going to be a polyamory angle to this story somewhere 😛

  10. There it is. I knew there was going to be a polyamory angle to this story somewhere 😛

    That ‘engaged with’ struck me as a odd locution when I first read the story. I’ve deliberately not tried to think about it too deeply.

  11. @Andy in Japan. You have to volunteer to be draped with a python so you get little sympathy, unless it was a local wild one that fell on you. They do end up in kitchens and drains occasionally, cobra as well!

  12. What bond a human can have with a snake I don’t know

    None whatsoever. Snakes are cold-blooded reptiles with little more than a hindbrain. They operate entirely by instinct and hunger.

    Never underestimate the ability of idiots who collect dangerous animals to anthropomorphize and project, though.

  13. It reminds me of that time Sharon Stone’s husband had half his foot bitten off by a Komodo dragon he was petting at the zoo.

  14. It’s a warning to those that cosy up to the Marxist serpent and its cult of death.

    Being Australia Day and midsummer, the snakes are out everywhere doing their thing in the hot sun now. They are a very real hazard in the workplace and something that us employers need to mindful of. I had quite the Australia Day incident that involved someone on deaths door from a snake bite, a strike and a few blokes losing their job and a bit of a spoiled holiday a few years back.

    Relaxing on the beach at Byron Bay, wife and kids playing and swimming, that rare moment when you are totally relaxed with your mind wandering free, phone rings, Bardon we have a bloke in intensive care, touch and go, me, don’t tell me it’s on the British Gas project, yes, it is, okay make sure that he lives and let’s get our stories straight. Our accredited snake handler who was employed on a pipeline project of ours to remove all the fauna that get trapped in our open trench every night including venomous snakes was on deaths door. Turns out he was handling some snakes and a small brown bit him, he told his assistant that it wasn’t poisonous and continued his handling duties. Next thing he turns up and just about collapses at the local hospital, he drove there through the bush on his own, you can imagine how this went down, he survive, lost his job and I think his accreditation.

    BG guy called me while I was on the phone to my guy, told me that they were not impressed and that it will affect bonuses BG group wide and heads will need to roll. About half an hour later I hang up from the initial flurry of calls and my wife screamed at me that whilst I was on the phone my youngest son had been stung by jellyfish and was hurt and upset plus she got stung rescuing him and I was none the wiser and charity begins at home. You could imagine how it went down when I said that we would need to pack up now and go back to the unit so that I could start a disaster recovery plan which I had to run on a part time basis over the rest of our holiday long weekend.

    When it comes to snakes its the two legged variety that you need to be most wary of.

  15. Crikey, Bardon. Your poisonous fauna is one of the reasons I keep well away from Australia.

  16. Nice moniker!

    Its not that bad, all you need to do once bitten is to stay calm, grab a notepad, identify and note what kind of snake it was that bit you, make sure you write it down in case you pass out and then hope that the medical response when you get to it or if they can find you has the right anti-venom in stock.

    SW walker bitten by snake in Tasmania’s Southwest National Park
    The Mercury-10 Jan. 2018
    AN interstate tourist was airlifted from Tasmania’s remote wilderness after being bitten by a snake. The 33-year-old was trekking in the Southwest National Park when she was bitten on Wednesday night.

    Man dies defending dog after brown snake bites him
    The Australian-11 Jan. 2018
    The man was standing in the backyard of his Cole Road home in West Tamworth on Wednesday about 10pm when he noticed his dog had picked up a snake in its mouth. It is believed the snake had been hissing in distress at the dog when the man grabbed it and was bitten hard on the hand.

    Snakebite the silent killer that comes with poverty
    The Sydney Morning Herald-21 Jan. 2018
    The story about a red-bellied black snake in Eden trying to get into a car through the driver’s side window this month would have been the stuff of nightmares for some readers.

    G’bah woman steps on red-bellied black snake in laundry
    Northern Star-18 Jan. 2018
    GOONELLABAH woman Michelle Gosling has faced what many people would consider their worst nightmare – being bitten by a venomous snake in her home. She was walking into her laundry to put a load of washing on about 9.30pm on Monday when she felt “something hit her”.

    Snake bite cases at Dubbo, Orana region rise as NSW Ambulance …
    Daily Liberal-2 Jan. 2018
    The number of suspected cases of snake bite in the Orana region in November and December was double the total for the same two-month period in 2016, NSW … A three-year-old girl bitten on the leg at Dubbo on November 15 was one of the eight incidents local paramedics responded to in the period.

  17. None whatsoever. Snakes are cold-blooded reptiles with little more than a hindbrain. They operate entirely by instinct and hunger.

    That was what I’d have assumed.

  18. It reminds me of that time Sharon Stone’s husband had half his foot bitten off by a Komodo dragon he was petting at the zoo.

    That’s another creature I’d prefer to see on TV.

  19. >The key, the chap told me, is to ensure they’re fed

    The key, I beg to differ, is not to have the frigging things in your house at all.

    >”All the family wanted was answers to our questions”

    I would have thought that all the family wanted was for their son not to have been killed by his pet. The answer to the question seems pretty straightforward.

    >Africans are petrified of snakes

    If people who live around them are petrified of them then it’s probably not a good idea to keep them in your bedroom.

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