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Python infested with 500 breeding ticks felt like ‘a bag of marbles,’ Australian rescuers say

What to do when you meet a python

Stay calm leads the list. Here is what the experts say people should do when they encounter the snake in South Florida.
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Stay calm leads the list. Here is what the experts say people should do when they encounter the snake in South Florida.

A python covered in more than 500 ticks was discovered in Australia this week — and the parasites felt as disturbing to the touch as they looked to the eyes, rescuers said.

Picking up the carpet python from a backyard swimming pool on Queensland’s Gold Coast was like “holding a bag of marbles that were moving under my hands,” said Tony Harrison of Gold Coast and Brisbane Snake Catchers, according to the BBC.

Gold Coast and Brisbane Snake Catchers posted video on Facebook of rescuers capturing the snake from the pool on Jan. 9.

The video has been viewed more than 120,000 times as of Friday evening.

“Have a look at this in the sunlight. Look at these ticks,” the rescuer says in the video, as he lifts up the snake from the pool. “The last thing on his mind is me … I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Obviously, [the snake] was extremely uncomfortable,” Harrison said, according to the BBC. “Its whole face was swollen and blooming.”

The snake has since been named “Nike.” After removing Nike from the pool, rescuers took the snake to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital for the ticks to be removed, the snake-catching group said on Facebook.

The ticks had been breeding on Nike: Harrison said there were “multiple generations of ticks” on the snake’s body, Newsweek reports. Harrison also said infestation had been building up for many months.

Gold Coast and Brisbane Snake Catchers wrote on Facebook that veterinarians spent hours removing the ticks from Nike, and found 511 parasitic insects total.

“There are still tiny young ones under the scales that will be treated with drugs to kill them,” the Facebook post said.

The group posted another photo of the ticks that shows just how creepy the pesky insects look up close.

An expert agreed that Nike wouldn’t have lasted much longer in the wild.

“Clearly it was a seriously unwell animal to have had its natural defences so broken down,” Associate Professor Bryan Fry of the University of Queensland said, according to the BBC. “I doubt it would have survived if it hadn’t been taken out and gotten treatment.”

Now that the ticks are gone, Nike is doing better, according to Gold Coast and Brisbane Snake Catchers. But it will be a while before the snake has fully recovered.

“Nike is a bit more sprightly today,” the snake catchers said in a video recorded and posted on Facebook Thursday. “He does have an infection they’re treating him for, and that’s probably the reason his health was compromised enough for the ticks to get the better of him.”

A two-headed copperhead snake was discovered in a garden in northern Virginia, according to JD Kleopfer of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Kleopfer said two-headed snakes normally don’t live very long in the wild.

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