Pythons are famously well-equipped to swallow large prey, but a recent viral video that appears to show an impossibly quick "carcass scarf-down" set off our authenticity alarms this week.


The clip has been copied and shared by countless aggregator sites – one Facebook page even racked up over 27 million views since posting it several days ago – but there's a problem: it's not real. 

To be clear, you are looking at a real snake (which appears to be a Burmese python or Indian rock python, not a boa as some have suggested), and the clip does feature a real predation. But the version above has been altered: not only is it slightly sped up, but it's also being played in reverse. 

The original was filmed in the Pune district in Maharashtra, India, where local residents actually forced a snake to regurgitate its hard-won meal after discovering the animal with a full belly near the village of Bedase:

Rescue worker Kiran Mokashi, a response official with local NGO Animal Friends, was called in to relocate the snake, but by the time he arrived on the scene, a crowd had already formed around the animal. 

According to NewsCrunch India, Mokashi and his team urged onlookers not to bother the lethargic predator, noting that the snake would likely move along after digesting its food over the next week.

These animals are opportunistic hunters, and while meals of this size aren't on the menu very often, we suspect the snake would have stomached its deer dinner without much trouble had it been left undisturbed. Python species around the globe have been known to feed on everything from goats and possums to the occasional kangaroo.

The non-venomous constrictors frequently go for months without eating before gorging themselves on a large meal – but the process of overpowering and killing prey, and then ratcheting it into the gastrointestinal tract, takes some time (not a few seconds!). And digesting that prey can take many days.

Noise and interference from the gathered crowd, however, caused this Pune predator to abort its mealtime mission. At that point, one of the villagers begins patting the snake's body to hurry the regurgitation process along, acting against the advice of the rescue team.

Auburn University wildlife biologist Dr David Steen, who has done extensive work with snakes, notes that this is a clear case of wildlife harassment. 

"Stressed out snakes often throw up recent meals as a defence mechanism; presumably it is easier to crawl away and escape without a big meal in their belly," he says. "That's what we are seeing with the harassed snake in this video."

Earlier this year in South Africa, an African rock python was filmed exhibiting similar regurgitation behaviour after swallowing a buck. And as you can see, that signature undulating "upchuck" is typically a much slower process:

Disturbing feeding (or regurgitation) can cause unnecessary and dangerous stress to a snake, but it looks like the Pune python survived its ordeal. 

Some details surrounding the event remain sketchy, like why the villager was permitted to touch the snake, and why the animal was held for so long. In the end, however, the python was reportedly returned to the forest in good condition after a quick round of fluids and a check-up at a nearby clinic: 

 Top header image: Patrick Randall/Flickr