Victorian Carpet Python - Reptile Encounters

Victorian Carpet Python

Scientific name:

Morelia spilota metcalfei

Other names:

Murray-Darling Carpet Python, Inland Carpet Python


Critically Endangered in Victoria (Only ~160 confirmed records in Vic)

Victorian Carpet pythons are a medium sized snake reaching an average size of around 1.8m. Like most pythons, their head is very distinct from the neck and they have very smooth scales. Colour is reddish brown to blackish brown with many irregular, dark-edged pale greyish blotches, but this species is quite variable and so this isn’t always the case. They have a series of heat-sensing pits along their lower lip, used for finding warm-blooded prey. This is a non-venomous species of snake, but they can subdue relatively large prey by constriction.

River corridors, especially those with Red Gum, Black Box or Box-Ironbark woodlands. Victorian individuals tend to be smaller than those from further north, and as such prefer to stay in woodlands instead of venturing into more open environments. Presence of hollow logs for nesting and semi-fallen branches to access trees is essential in woodland habitats. Also associated with rocky escarpments.

Once widespread throughout the warmer areas of northern Victoria, these pythons are now restricted to small and fragmented areas centred around rocky outcrops and the rivers and lakes of the Murray River drainage system.

Victorian Carpet pythons are strictly carnivores, feeding on small – medium sized prey such as possums, birds, rats and other small mammals. Juveniles are thought to prey on mostly lizards.

Since European settlement, this subspecies has been subject to numerous human-induced threats that have resulted in major declines in the Victorian population.

  • Reduction and fragmentation of suitable habitat
  • Loss of connectivity of habitat (connecting vegetation between areas becoming degraded
  • Degradation of remaining habitat, such as removal of hollow-bearing trees and logs, and reduction of rocky outcrops.
  • Firewood collection
  • Inappropriate fire regimes
  • Changed flooding regimes in riverine areas
  • Weed invasion
  • Removal of rocks from habitat
  • Extinction of prey items (18 small mammal species from northern Vic that would have been vital food sources are now extinct)
  • Ripping of rabbit warrens that the pythons use for shelter
  • Reduction in rabbit numbers (replaced native mammals as a food source)
  • Predation from foxes, cats and pigs
  • Persecution by people, killing pythons thinking they’re a dangerous snake species.
  • Road kills
  • Illegal collection for the pet trade

A detailed action statement for the Victorian Carpet Python was put together by the Department of Sustainability and Environment (now the DELWP) that addressed practical ways to target all of the above points, protect the areas where pythons were known to exist and educate the public on how to make sure any recreational or agricultural activities in python habitat wouldn’t have a detrimental effect on the pythons. Whether any of this was actually put into effect is unclear.
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