2013 New Brunswick python attack
An African rock python killed two boys in Campbellton, New Brunswick on August 5, 2013. The boys, ages 4 and 6, were brothers who were visiting their friend, whose father owned a pet shop below the apartment where they were staying.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the python escaped from its enclosure in the apartment and entered the living room where the boys were sleeping via the ventilation system. The python was approximately 4.3 metres (14 ft) long and weighed 45 kilograms (100 lb).
The owner of the python was interviewed by Global Television Network. According to the interview the python was not in the pet store downstairs, but rather in a specially built cage in the apartment upstairs. The python escaped its enclosure through a hole in the ceiling, where a ventilation fan had been removed for maintenance. This gave the snake direct access to the air ducts in the ceiling, which then collapsed under the snake’s weight above the living room. The pipe containing the snake crashed through the ceiling tiles and onto the boys who were sleeping on a floor mattress located about eight feet from the snake’s enclosure.
Several experts expressed skepticism about the incident and said that this behaviour by this type of snake would be extremely unusual, although there have been some previous reports of deadly attacks on humans. According to the reports, the snake did not consume the bodies after strangling the brothers. This, together with the fact that more than one child was killed in a single incident and that the other occupants of the apartment were reportedly not awakened by the disturbance, prompted questions about the circumstances regarding the alleged attack. Reptilia zoo facilities manager Lee Parker said "They don't go on killing sprees. It doesn't make sense to me." Though these objections have been made, the possibility that the incident may be a homicide rather than an animal attack has been ruled out by the RCMP.
Court records revealed that the pet shop owner was found pacing outside of the store with blood on his hands and shorts by police who first arrived on the scene. Contrary to prior reports, the store owner told arriving police that the snake was still unaccounted for, leaving one to speculate whether the blood belonged to the boys or was his own (due to being bitten by the "enraged" snake or cut by debris from the collapsed ceiling).
Kentucky Reptile Zoo director, Jim Harrison, stated that it was theoretically possible for the large python to have constricted around both boys at the same time, a notion supported by University of Texas professor, Neil Ford. Harrison also mentioned that since the boys handled a variety of farm animals (horses, llamas, goats, cats, and dogs) earlier that day, they may have smelled like food to the snake.
Although the pet shop was registered as a reptile zoo, police said that the province does not allow pythons and that the owner probably did not have the proper permits and authorization to keep the python under his care.
The danger of African rock pythons
The African rock python is one of the five largest snake species in the world (along with the green anaconda, reticulated python, Burmese python and amethystine python). At least two other examples of humans killed by an African rock python have been reported. A ten-year old boy was reportedly killed and swallowed in South Africa in 2002, and a three-year old boy was reportedly strangled by a 7.5 feet (2.3 m) foot African rock python in Centralia, Illinois in 2000. A closely related species, a Burmese python, reportedly strangled a 28-year-old Brampton man in 1992.
The python was euthanized by authorities after the incident.
Biomechanical studies have shown that rock pythons and other large constricting snakes may sometimes kill their prey by inducing cardiac arrest rather than suffocation.
The owner of the python and the mother of the two brothers had Facebook accounts that reporters used to obtain pictures. The two boys could be seen cleaning a large glass enclosure belonging to a Green Anaconda in pictures their mother posted on Facebook. This enclosure later held the African Rock Python that, unlike the Green Anaconda, was able to escape.
- "Python's strangling of 2 boys in Canada investigated", CBS News, August 6, 2013.
- Mahoney, J., "'It's Very, Very Puzzling': Snake Expert Mystified by New Brunswick Python Attack", The Globe and Mail, August 6, 2013.
- "Python Escapes Cage, Kills Brothers Aged 4 and 6 in Canada", Latin Post, August 8, 2013.
- Kwong, M., "Boys killed by python: Case baffles snake experts", MSN News, August 8, 2013.
- Gillies, R., "Boys Killed by Python Died from Asphyxiation", MSN News, August 8, 2013.
- Zennie, M., Warren, L., and McMahon, B., "Mother's Heartbreak After her Two Sons, 4 and 6, are Strangled in their Sleep by 16-ft Python during Sleepover above Pet Shop", The Daily Mail Online, August 5, 2013 (updated August 7, 2013).
- Than, K., "Strangulation of Sleeping Boys Puts Spotlight on Pythons", National Geographic Daily News, August 6, 2013.
- "Python enclosure in N.B. boys' deaths had 'flaw'", CBC News, August 14, 2013.
- Prentiss, M., Paperny, A.M., Wong, J., and Logan, N., “Python that killed two N.B. boys was in enclosure near where they slept, friend says”, Global News, August 6, 2013.
- Wood, D., Snake attack leaves many questions, The Waterloo Region Record, August 6, 2013.
- Withnall, A., Python escapes from Canadian pet store and kills two young brothers as they sleep, The Independent, August 6, 2013.
- "Escaped python kills two young children in Canada", Agence France-Presse, August 6, 2013.
- "Python pet shop owner had blood on hands", CBC News, August 22, 2013.
- "Mother of 2 boys killed by python posted Facebook photos of boys in snake enclosure", CBS News, August 7, 2013.
- Morales, S., "Python Killing of 2 New Brunswick Boys Baffles Experts", CBC News, August 6, 2013.
- McDiarmid, J., "New Brunswick boys killed by python spent fun-filled last day", Toronto Star, , August 6, 2013.
- McLaughlin, P., "Autopsy report released in N.B. snake deaths", CHCH News, August 7, 2013.
- Constriction Strength in Snakes: B. R. Moon and R. S. Mehta, 2007 http://research.pbsci.ucsc.edu/eeb/mehta/PDF/Moon&Mehta2007.pdf