Monday, November 23, 2009

Dinner in Cloud Break, Arizona

Today I received an e-mail describing a tale of mortal combat between a lizard and snake in Cloud Break, Arizona. The text of the e-mail reads, "These pics were taken by one of the road crew at Cloud break, Arizona last week. It took a total of 5 hours for the King Snake to finish off the Goanna. (Sand Monitor) As you can see, they put some signage up so it couldn't be run over."


What really happened though, is that a creative but lazy jokester has taken a series of pictures of a lizard and a snake from Australia and changed the location specified in the accompanying text, perhaps to scare their neighbors. I'm going to guess they're from, oh..I don't know...Cloud Break, Arizona? I can't actually find information about this town, does it really exist?


Our first clue is the mention of a goanna, which do not occur in North America. You may recall Paul Hogan eating one in Crocodile Dundee (although he didn't like the taste). Maybe whoever altered the e-mail didn't know this. But, at least they were aware that Black-headed Pythons can't be found in Arizona, so they changed the species to a Kingsnake, which do occur in Arizona and look superficially similar to the python in the picture.

Black-headed Pythons can reach about eight feet long, much bigger than Common Kingsnakes can; their large size makes them well equipped to eat large lizards such as goannas. Kingsnakes also like to eat other reptiles, although none as large as the goanna in the picture.

If you're interested in learning about what snakes can really be found in Arizona, check out this site. Information about Arizona's lizards can be found here.

10.8.11-Multiple commenters have noted that this picture was taken near the Cloud Break mine in Pilbara, Australia.

25 comments:

Mark Bailey said...

Although you're spoiling it for the herpetologically challenged, great work, man!

kim said...

I figured it was some kind of hoax - bummer. But is it realistic that the snake would eat that big of a lizard?

David Steen said...

Thanks Mark.

Kim...snakes are famous for their ability to take prey large relative to their own body size, as demonstrated in the pics. As you know, they're able to do this because of their jaw structure, which isn't as 'rigid' as ours. They can manipulate their jaw bones to accommodate huge prey.

However, it's much more typical for snakes to eat prey items that don't push them to the limit, so to speak. When a snake tries to eat another large animal, they run the risk that their intended prey turns the tables on them. If they do manage to subdue their prey, they are vulnerable to predators themselves (like hawks) when they go through the long process of trying to swallow it. Finally, after eating something so large the snakes will be slow and again, vulnerable to predation.

But, as the pics show, sometimes a large juicy lizard is just too appetizing to pass up.

Betsys_Backyard said...

Thanks for your continued sleuthing and truth seeking on the blogosphere and educating us all!

Charles said...

Didn't hear this, but it's amazing how people will try to mislead others.

Shawn said...

Wow... That's a beautiful snake... And a big meal! Captured it at an excellent moment. Well Done!

Bill W. said...

Thanks for the proper info. I was surfing trying to identify the type of snake and it just didn't fit anything in AZ. Although the photos are spectacular, it sucks that people can'y put the appropriate info with their mailings.
Thanks again,
Bill in Ohio

Nate said...

I knew it!! I received this same email. I started doing my own research and couldn't find any snake in AZ that grew to this size of the one pictured. Then I found this blog only confirming my suspicion.

The deep red color of the road and road signs are what gave it way for me. The US has more official looking road signs. Those pictured are typical of countries down under.

Nate in Utah

David Steen said...

Hi all, glad the information here was helpful in your investigations.

Charles Field said...

I received the e-mail also. I was dubious immediately. I have backpacked in Arizona for 50 years, the Grand Canyon, the mountains, deserts and have learned of all the deadly critters. I never heard of this Goanna nor Cloud Break,AZ. Yes, we have lots of King Snakes and road runners to eat our rattlesnakes. I have then where I live. It took 5 minutes of research to figure out the photos were probably taken in Australia.
BTW, Arizona has hundreds of square miles of red dirt roads, Sedona , Mounument Valley, Navajo and Hopi Reservation, Grand Canyon.
azsuperman@yahoo.com

Jeeves Chubley said...

I had the opportunity last year to check out a few AZ snakes and other herps with a real herpetologist, Roger Repp, with special thanks to the Tucson Herpetological Society. I made some youtube reports for a kids radio program I help out with. Enjoy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSxpSgUGda8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJLl_TEUriY

Anonymous said...

it's the cloud break mine in pilbara au

john said...

The pics of the lizard and snake are genuine however..... This is a black headed python and some kind of monitor lizard both native to Australia not Arizona. This is a HOAX!

David Steen said...

Thanks John,

That is in fact the point of the blog. Thanks for stopping by!

Dave

Anonymous said...

I have desert kings in my classroom. There is NO WAY king snakes ever get this big. That last picture gave it away too- they don't have black heads like that. The closest lizard we have in AZ that looks like that is the chuckwalla, but that isn't a chuckwalla either! Even though I teach AZ and know this wasn't real, I forwarded it to my family anyway for the fun of it!

David Steen said...

Anonymous, you know better!

Dave

Anonymous said...

This is not a hoax. This photo was taken in the Pilbara region of WESTERN AUSTRALIA. Cloudbreak is a mine site in this region, the snake is a black headed python and its is eating a Bungarra (an australian lizzard native to the pilbara)

David Steen said...

That information is already included in this post.

Lana said...

Thanks Mr. Steen. I received the pictures of the snake eating the lizard in Cloud Break, AZ and my first reaction was I didn't think AZ had lizards that big. It was while I was trying to find Cloud Break, AZ that I came across your site. I really don't like people who kill things (snakes included) just because they are there. I live in the Mohave Desert and have had my run in with rattlesnakes; and it has always been the same results....I leave them alone & they leave me alone. No poking or jabbing to see what they might do; at the most I will take my camera and get some really interesting pictures. Again thanks for the information

David Steen said...

Thanks Lana for your comment. Glad to hear you've got some interesting rattlesnake pictures. If you've got a story to go along with it, consider submitting it for the Poise and Dignity Campaign V. II http://davidasteen.blogspot.com/2010/12/rattlesnakesfinding-their-poise-and.html.

Dave

Steve Case said...

I got that e-mail too, and you didn't put up all the photos - they are awesome (-:

Steve Case

journalofalibra said...

David,

Thank you for confirming the false Arizona information in this blog. Today i received this email and was way too furious for my own good. I received the same email with the correct information several years ago when I lived in Australia. I worked at a wildlife park for two years and personally held Black Headed pythons for the public to interact with. Honestly, they were my least favorite of the pythons we interacted with. Black Headed Pythons and Woma Pythons are the only Australian Python without heat sensing pits to help locate warm blooded prey so they are well known in Australia for eating lizards and other cold blooded (Ectothermic) animals. Thank you so much for busting this altered email, you made my day.

David Steen said...

Very cool natural history info there; thanks for sharing. Glad this blog assuaged your rage!

Dave

julien said...

Just came across this post while having a look at others. Those pics were taken by a friend who used to work on a mine site in Cloud break, Western Australia. That black headed python was on the road to one of the site. my friends and his workmate stopped for some pics and then, seeing that it would take that snake a while to finish, fenced off that part of the road for him to finish his meal as trucks would drive in and out of the site all day long. and true it took that snake about 5h to get that goanna down.
for the story my friend wished he had copyrighted those pics...

and the name Bungarra is used for various species of goanna in australia, in those pics it is most likely a yellow-spotted monitorm (V. panoptes rubidus)

David Steen said...

Julien,

Thanks for the inside information and the identification on the lizard.

Dave