We’ve all seen these pictures of giant snakes being passed around the internet. I always laugh when someone sends me such a picture, them expecting me to be amazed and the gigantic snake. Are these snakes real?

I am a lover of snakes, the bigger the better. While in college, I became fascinated by boas and pythons. That is also the same time I began collecting these massive beasts.

My first real pet snake was an 11′ Burmese python, I named her Asia. Asia was the greatest snake one could ever hope to have. She was sweet (as much as a snake could be), she was gentle and she never got into mischief.

Author, Dusty Showers in college (1990) with his various reptiles.

But like most snake people will tell you, one snake is never enough. I branched out into many different kinds but mostly various boas, a 14′ reticulated python, African rock pythons and my two prizes, the rare, purebred Indian pythons.

I was mesmerized by the size of large pythons and boas. I recall meeting someone that had a 16 foot long Burmese python. The snake was massive but yet gentle as a baby. But still, all I could think of was getting bit by a snake whose head was bigger than my hand.

This was also the time of my life where I learned everything I possibly could about boas and pythons. Back then (around 1990) we had very limited information and we certainly did not have the internet. Not only was there not much known, what was known was limited to a few books that were difficult to find

My life changed when these cheap little black and white books came out by some guy named Philippe De Vosjoli. These books changed my life. Me and my small group of reptile friends, up until now, were basically guessing on how to care for our reptiles, including how to breed them!

This was also the time of my life that I became obsessed with just how big these monsters can really get. There are plenty of stories of pythons and boas 30, 40 and even 50 feet!

Could you imagine a 50′ snake??? According to the internet, they are out there…in fact, these stories were told even before the internet!

After 3 years of college, I found I was spending more times with my snakes than I was studying any thing in school. The summer after my 3rd year I got a job as a nuisance wildlife technician. All day and into the night I would resolve issues when wildlife, bees and hornets would find their way into people’s homes and properties. Given that I still do the same things, 30 years later it seemed to be the perfect profession for me.

Though I got my start in Illinois, I eventually moved to the Tampa Bay Area in Florida in 1995. I traded in my captive pythons, boas and caiman in return for alligators, rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and coral snakes in the wild!

Snakes Are Never As Big As People Say

Snakes are just like fish…they get bigger every time the story is told. And when my company Creepy Creatures, Inc. gets snake calls (I literally got one as I was writing this article) they are normally from callers that start by saying something like “You will not believe the size of the snake in my yard/house/garage, etc..” And they are right; after 30 years, I have seen some big snakes, but few if any have ever lived up to the hype.

After I arrive, catch the snake and measure it…only to find out it is quite a bit smaller that the customer estimated, they normally say “Well, it LOOKED bigger before.” Or they say “Man! Have you ever seen anything so big???”

To me honest, this happens with many animals, especially rats and raccoons. For whatever reason, people are convinced that they have the largest ever animal ever recorded in history. And in some sort of cognitive dissidence, they think they have the one animal that is the biggest of the thousands I’ve seen.

I hate to burst bubbles but there are few animals in my memory that really stand out because of size. I recall one giant old raccoon in Chicago, and old fat opossum stands out…and one Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. However, these were not any sort of anomalous freak giant animals. The were just big enough that they stand out in my memory.

There have been more times than I can remember of people telling me stories of humungous snakes. It’s often someone telling me that their friend has a 50′ Burmese python. 50′? Yes, that would would be impressive, very impressive.

Fantasia, the late giant Burmese python from Staten Island Zoo

It is widely accepted that the longest species of snake is the reticulated python and the heaviest is the green anaconda, neither of which reach anywhere near 50 feet. About 32′ feet is the typical number cited as “The longest snake in the world” and that is the amazing and often unpredictable reticulated python, or simply, “a retic”. Though officially, according to Guinness the longest snake in captivity is a retic named “Medusa” measuring in at 25’2″.

Medusa, the world's longest snake.

Absurdly Giant Snakes

Snakes are rarely as big as people claim. In 2003 An Indonisian man claimed he had a reticulated python measuring 49′ and 983 lbs…if true,this would be a MASSIVE monster and nearly double the size of the actual world record holder of almost 33’…but it’s not true. The doctored picture below circulating the internet does not help.

Fake picture of a reticulated python

Forced Perspective

People are constantly sending me pictures they find online of massive snakes, hoping to impress me. I’m always impressed…just because I love big snakes but there are rarely any that I find to be unique in it’s size.

Forced perspective” is a term used in photography. According to Wikipedia, Forced perspective is a technique which employs optical illusion to make an object appear farther away, closer, larger or smaller than it actually is. It manipulates human visual perception through the use of scaled objects and the correlation between them and the vantage point of the spectator or camera. It has uses in photographyfilmmaking and architecture.

Forced perspective techniques are especially common when taking pictures of snakes and fish. Below are all pictures using forced perspective. While yes, the snakes are large, they are not uniquely large and they certainly are not as large as the pictures would lead you to believe.

Giant Eastern diamondback rattlesnake.
About a 5' Eastern diamondback rattlesnake.
Forced perspective showing a rattlesnake to be much larger than it really is.
Diamondback rattlesnake...it's all in the angle of the picture.
Eastern diamondback...it's not really that big.
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake...size is an illusion.
Nice try...but no, that diamondback rattlesnake is not really that big.
Nope. We are not fooled by the size of your rattlesnake.
Diamondback rattlesnake...forced perspective anyone?

How Big Do Snakes Really Get?

In 2004 Indonesian villagers claimed they had a 49 foot reticulated python. If true, this would be the largest snake in recent history. Sadly, the true story came out when the Guardian and Reuters both sent reporters to the village.

Upon arrival it was obvious that this

If fact, it was estimated to be no more that 23′ and approximately 220 lbs, not the 983 lbs that was originally reported.

Upon the snake being measured by a Reuters photographer, one of the snake’s keepers said ““I have no idea why the snake has shrunk,” said one keeper when asked about the discrepancy, as the snake lounged on a tree branch inside its cage.”

The Take-Away

Take just about everything you hear about snakes with a grain of salt. There are some truly amazing stories about mammoth snakes, but rarely does the truth match up with the story. Just like with anything, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is to good to be true.

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Dusty Showers has been in the urban nuisance wildlife and pest control field since 1993. Taught by Garon Fyffe, a pioneer in humane nuisance wildlife management, Dusty has a passion for finding humane solutions to human & wildlife conflicts. Dusty was the only individual invited by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission in the lat 1990's to help write legislation for legal protection of Florida bats. With an instinct for solving wildlife, Dusty found pest control to be an easy "add-on interest". Dusty started his first business "Animal Instincts Wildlife & Pest Management" in the Tampa Bay, Florida area in 1995. Eventually selling Animal Instincts in 2002, Dusty went on to start Creepy Creatures Termite and Pest Control in 2009, which he still owns and operates today in Palm Harbor, Florida.

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