What is a Woma Python?

Angie Bates

The woma python is a species of constrictor snake found in most areas of Australia. Also called a sand python or Ramsay's python, this snake prefers arid climates, usually living on sand plains or in dune fields. It is closely related to the black-headed python, the only other member of its genus. The scientific name for the woma python is Aspidites ramsayi.

The woma python is a constrictor snake that prefers arid climates.
The woma python is a constrictor snake that prefers arid climates.

Both species of the Aspidites genus are unique in the lack of small heat sensing holes in their jaws. These holes, or pits, are common in other species of python. The pits allow most pythons to sense their prey's body heat.

A woma python can be found in most areas of Australia.
A woma python can be found in most areas of Australia.

Like all pythons, woma pythons are not venomous, but do have teeth. Averaging 5 feet (about 1.5 m), woma pythons can reach lengths of nearly 10 feet (roughly 3 m). They are most commonly shades of brown or tan, with darker horizontal banding along their length. Their narrow heads are usually orange and blend with their thick bodies, which taper to thin tails. Their undersides are pale and usually cream-colored.

The woma python is nocturnal. During the day, it lives in logs or thick grass, sometimes even taking shelter in animal burrows. These pythons eat lizards, small mammals, and ground birds. Since they are immune to snake venom, woma pythons also eat many species of poisonous snakes.

Constrictor snakes grab their prey with their jaws, then coil around the animal, squeezing until it suffocates. In addition to this technique, the woma python also has another tactic to catch its prey; these snakes often attack inside the prey's burrow, crushing the animal against the wall of its home. Prey caught using this approach take longer to die than those caught with the traditional squeezing technique, so adult woma pythons often sport scars from the fighting prey.

Woma pythons mate from May to August. The females lay five to 19 eggs and then coil around the eggs to protect and incubate them. The young hatch after two or three months and, once hatched, are left on their own.

As of 2010, the woma python is considered endangered and is protected by the Western Australia Wildlife Conservation Act. Two factors have contributed to the decline of this species. Primarily, urban development has destroyed much of its habitat, reducing not only areas where it can live, but also the abundance of prey species in a given area. Also, the introduction of non-native foxes as predators have accelerated these snakes' decline.

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