Thursday, July 2, 2009 12:36 PM cstanton

Giant Snake Kills Baby

I'm going to bring everyone's mood down and talk about a terrible thing that happened yesterday, July 1st. At about 10 A.M. Charles Darnell woke up in his girlfriends home and went about his business. When he got into the living room, he noticed that his "12 foot" burmese python was not in its terrarium. He went through the house searching for the snake and found it strangling his girlfriend's daughter, who was identified as 2 year old Shaiunna Hare, in her crib. According to his account, he stabbed the snake with a knife and pried her out of it's death grip. The snake quickly slithered under a dresser. By the time the paramedics had arrived, the child was dead and they were unable to revive her.


There have been many myths about man-eating snakes, but you rarely ever hear a valid report of it. There have been movies made out of it, and even elaborate staged photos, just to instill the fear of a man-eating serpent into our heads, and justly so. Any snake owner should be extremely careful about how they keep the reptile locked up, ESPECIALLY if there is a bite-sized baby in the house. According to Tim Keele, head of the Critter Control of Orlando, anyone in this position should make sure to take meticulous preventative measures to avoid the snake escaping and should have a plan if the snake were to attack. As far as the measures that were taken, Keele says that "stabbing the snake would only promote tighter restriction. Most prey's only method of defense is to bite and scratch the snake while it's being constricted. You can see this whenever you feed a constrictor. If the rat does not die immediately, it will begin to kick and you can actually see the snake continuing to constrict tighter and tighter. That's standard with these types of snakes." He also gives us a few tips for getting a snake to release its grip. Pouring alcohol down the snake's throat, pouring hot water on it, and slapping the snake all over its body would work better than stabbing the snake. 

The only reason that a snake would eat a child like that would be a reaction to a conditioned feeding response. If a snake's cage is opened every time it is fed, it correlates the cage opening with feeding time. It's like Pavlov's dog experiment, but snakes are even more easily conditioned than dogs. The same response will be triggered if the cage is left open.

There was some discrepancy as to the size of the snake. Darnell says that the snake is "about 12 feet" in the 911 call, but when the snake was removed it measured out to be only 8' 8". A link to the 911 call is here, but its pretty intense so you may not want to listen to it unless you're tough. Now, since this python is two years old according to Darnell, and since the python is 8 and a half feet, then it would be extremely undernourished and would be very hungry and trying to eat all the time, which would make sense of it hunting down and strangling a sleeping child.

Either way, Darnell should not have owned this creature, and will probably face some serious charges.  Tim Williams, a snake specialist at GatorLand, says that a special permit is required for these pythons because of the risk factors, such as munching down on native wildlife, pets, and children. FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) Official, Joy Hill, says that Darnell did not have the required permit to own this type of snake.

I just can't imagine the idiocy required to keep a snake large enough to eat a child in a house with a baby that still has to sleep in a crib. Even more, what kind of incoherent mooncalf would leave its terrarium unlocked? These are very dangerous animals, they make movies about them. Big snakes are scary for a reason. I really hope that this guy goes to prison for a really long time. It wasn't the snake's fault that it ate that child. All the snake was tryin to do was eat because it was apparently starving. A two year old burmese python should be at least 11 feet long, and this one was undernourished and looking for some grub. I really hope that they find the snake a new home and that they don't kill it, because then Darnell would be responsible for two deaths.

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