Arriving home from work to find a hefty python masquerading as tinsel is some people's idea of a nightmare before Christmas, but for one couple in Brisbane the uninvited visitor was a delightful surprise.

A coastal carpet python coiled up in a Christmas tree. Image © John Brooks

Leanne Chapman and John Brooks were alerted to the presence of the python last Thursday when they returned home from work and heard a flock of resident butcher birds sounding the alarm "They were just kicking off on the balcony, going crazy," Chapman told 7News. Initially uncertain what had set the birds off, Brooks headed to the balcony to film the commotion. As he did so, he didn't realise that he was practically leaning on the source of the birds' panic: draped across the couple's outside Christmas tree was a sizeable coastal carpet python.

Understandably, Brooks and Chapman got "a bit of a shock". But their surprise quickly turned to awe and they managed to snap some candid photos of the unexpected visitor. "It was actually quite nice to see it that close up because I've never seen anything like it before," Chapman said of the encounter. They left the snake to move off on its own which it eventually did at about 10:30 that evening. 

Image © John Brooks
Image © John Brooks

Coastal carpet pythons are widespread throughout Queensland and New South Wales in eastern Australia and can grow to three metres (ten feet) long. Unlike some of the country's more famous reptilian residents, carpet pythons are not venomous. They typically prey on birds and small mammals, including some non-native animals that have invaded Australia, like rabbits. They often take up residence in urban and suburban landscapes where their adaptable eating habits allow them to thrive. Fortunately, most Australians are accustomed to living alongside reptiles, so conflicts with people are minimal. If provoked, they are capable of delivering a nasty bite that may require a tetanus injection, but it would certainly not be fatal.

Top header image: Alexandre Roux/Flickr