A young mother woke to the hissing of her pet cat – and to her horror found a 6ft python wrapped around her baby daughter.
‘I thought I was having a nightmare, but then realised this was no bad dream,’ said 22-year-old Tess Guthrie from the town of Lismore in northern New South Wales.
‘It was only because the cat was hissing that I woke up and saw the snake with its body wrapped around my daughter Zara’s arm.’
Mrs Guthrie threw herself at the snake, grabbing it by the head and tried to pry it off her two-year-old daughter, who had been sleeping beside her mother.
But the snake fought back and sank its fangs three times into Zara’s hand.
Still, courageous Mrs Guthrie managed to pry the snake from her daughter and call for help, bringing an ambulance and a snake catcher racing to her home.
While Zara was being treated at the hospital for the snake bites – which weren’t venomous – snake expert Tex Tillis hunted down the python at Mrs Guthrie’s home.
He found it sleeping between the bedside table and the wall and suspects it had been in the bedroom for several days.
Mr Tillis said the coastal python, or carpet snake, was not trying to hurt the child.
‘It was trying to have a group hug,’ he told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. ‘Pythons, underneath their bottom jaw, they have a row of sensors which enable them to see the world in terms of infrared pictures.
‘So in the dark they’re going to see a baby as this warm spot.’
After her bites were treated with antiseptic at Lismore Base Hospital, Zara was allowed to return home with her mother.
Mrs Guthrie said she had noticed her cat behaving out of character in the days leading up to the python incident.
‘She’s a very resourceful lady,’ she said of the family cat. ‘She tried to grab the snake’s head, but got six inches down which left the head free to bite the baby.’
Mr Tillis said the python was between five and 10 years old – ‘by no means a big fellah. They grow much, much bigger,’ he said.
Mrs Guthrie insisted the snake should not be killed and at her request it was released into the wild about three miles from the house.
‘She’s courageous and gutsy – and also compassionate,’ Mr Tillis said in a reference to Mrs Guthrie.