Python reticulatus – Reticulated Python

Python reticulatus - Reticulated Python in situ

Python reticulatus – Reticulated Python in situ

The Reticulated Python, Python reticulatus (or actually nowadays Malayopython reticulatus; sorry but I don’t like the genus change) is another species that is often in the top 5 of most wanted snakes for field herpers coming to Thailand. It is certainly not the rarest of all, but still it requires luck to see one. It’s the most wide spread of all the three pythons in Thailand, and it can even be found in downtown Bangkok.
The picture above is an ‘in situ’ shot of a retic that was waiting in ambush on the rocks in a dry stream bed. A day later it was still on the exact same rock. This specimen was found in February, which seems the peak month for retic sightings. This might have to do with the temperatures slowly rising after the cool winter, but the nights still being cool. We find them more often in daytime around that time of year, but also crossing tarmac roads in the early evening, probably partly using the warmth of the road after a sunny day.

Python reticulatus - Reticulated Python yellow head

Python reticulatus – Reticulated Python with yellow head

facts


Dangerous? Could be, a large individual would have enough power to overpower a child or even adult, but fatalities are very rare; Pythons are not venomous, but they have several rows of sharp teeth that will cause a bloody wound when they bite. Be careful not to get an infection.
Venom Not venomous
Length Average seen in the wild is up to 3 – 5m, but is known to reach about 10m and is the longest snake in the world, longer than the Anaconda; largest specimen we have seen was about 6m, an absolute giant, see the image at the bottom.
Diet Mostly mammals and birds. Tour guides we know from Khao Yai have shown us footage/ images of large retics in Khao Yai eating Sambar deer (Thailand’s largest deer species that can grow over 200kg) and Northern Red Muntjac. But in many of these cases, some people couldn’t resist to get closer to take pictures, the pythons felt threatened and regurgitated the half-eaten deer and moved off. If you are ever lucky to witness a snake eating, please!, control your excitement and keep a distance. The snakes know they are very vulnerable after eating such a big prey item, so when you get too close they will decide to regurgitate the prey and move off for good. They will not return!
How easy to find This species is widespread in Thailand. Encounters are not uncommon, it’s the easiest of the three Thai python species, but it still requires quite a bit of luck.
Best time of year We have seen this species all year round, but there seem to be some peaks in certain months of the year. When the nights start to warm up after the winter season around February we often see more retics. Also just before the winter starts, November can be quite good with a bit more road crossing Retics. And generally the wet season they are active as well.
Best time of day In the beginning of the year, like February – March, they can be found basking more visibly in the mornings. But generally best time is at night.
Threats Human persecution mainly for skins, and road killing victims. We have witnessed pythons getting hit by cars on big roads where people are not able to break on time, and they are too long so hard to avoid. Though, you might not see many big retics dead on the roads, because they are strong enough to move off the road after impact and likely die in the bushes on the road sides.
Net-pattern of the Reticulated Python

Net-pattern of the Reticulated Python

Description

Python reticulatus - Reticulated Python brown/ grey head

Python reticulatus – Reticulated Python brown/ grey head

The reticulated has a grey/ brown body color with a net-like pattern of black and yellow, and with a row of white spots on the side of the body. There is some variation in coloration per individual, especially the head color can differ significantly. Some have a beautiful yellow/ orange head, while other specimens have a brown or greyish head similar in color as the body.

Similar-looking species

The Reticulated Python has a rather unique pattern and coloration which makes it quite easy to distinguish from other species.

Head comparison pythons of Thailand

Head comparison of the pythons of Thailand

  • Burmese Python, Python bivittatus (up to 6m) is sometimes confused with the Reticulated Python. Burmese Pythons have a dark brown arrow shape on the head bordered by light brown. The pattern consists of dark brown blotches encircled by a black line, on a light brown background color. Similarly as in the Reticulated Python the side of the body has a more greyish background color.
  • Brongersma’s Blood Python, Python brongersmai (up to 2.5m) is not commonly confused, anyway this species is rare to encounter. This species is very heavy built for its short length, unlike the retics that are long and slender, especially when similar in length as a Blood Python. A 1.5m Blood Python is generally about the same girth as a 4 – 5m wild Retic. Both species have a median black line in the center of the top of their heads. The Blood python has a light-colored ‘teardrop’, while the Python reticulatus has a black ‘teardrop’. The Blood Python lacks the black reticulated pattern. Instead it has more organically formed blobs on its body.
Reticulated Python in a tree

Reticulated Python in a tree

Behaviour

To be continued…

Python reticulatus - Reticulated Python swimming

Python reticulatus – Reticulated Python swimming

Range & habitat

To be continued…

Young retic on the move

Young retic on the move

Taxonomy

To be continued…

How to find this species in Thailand?

To be continued…

6m Monster Reticulated Python

6m Monster Reticulated Python in Khao Yai

Not exactly a great picture, all we had on us was a crappy compact camera – something I will never forgive myself, because after this ridiculously large retic, we got to see 3 Clouded Leopards!!! crossing the road, mommy with two large cubs… . But anyway, this is the largest Reticulated Python I have ever seen. About 6m long. An extremely rare sighting in the wild. Normally average size is about 2.5 – 3.5m, and one should be really happy with a 4 to 5m specimen. 6m is absurd. Even the park ranger that was with us that night had never in his life living in the national park, seen anything close to this size. He was willing to lift the tail for the picture. He’s dwarfed by the huge snake in this image, haha.

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