Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Australian Speed Bumps and Monster Alabama Snakes

    Last week, a distressed Alabama resident contacted the state’s Department of Natural Resources with a plea for help.  It seems this individual’s son had sent her a grainy picture of a giant snake he had encountered while walking along a rural road in the western portion of the state.  The massive beast spanned the length of the road and seemed capable of consuming any man or beast before it.  Concerned for his safety, and for all others in the area, this citizen wanted to know if there were any precautions they should be taking, considering the giant killer snake on the loose.  As proof, the above picture was offered.

The individual at the Department of Natural Resources forwarded the e-mail to a number of biologists for advice, and it made its way to my inbox.  Mark Bailey was the first to get to the bottom of the issue; his Google search revealed several additional versions of the above, grainy image. 

    When we see the original picture, we can immediately determine a prankster has been at work.  The time stamp on the bottom right of the picture clearly states it was taken over five years ago.  In the first grainy version, this time stamp was conveniently missing.

    We can also positively identify the snake in the image as a Green Anaconda, Eunectes murinus.  The massive girth of the snake gives it away.  The Green Anaconda is the heaviest, most massive snake in the world (it’s important to note the Reticulated Python of Southeastern Asia can reach a longer overall length, in the neighborhood of 30 feet).  The olive green color of the snake, as well as the light yellow spots encircled by black rings, are indicative of Green Anacondas.  The lesser known Yellow Anaconda, Eunectes notaeus, do not reach the lengths that Greens do, and as you might expect from their name, they are a different color.

    Green Anacondas naturally range throughout eastern South America; a highly aquatic snake, the species spends much of its time within the water.  They prey on just about anything they can seize and overpower, including birds and large rodents, and even caiman (a type of crocodilian) and potentially jaguars.

    I suppose it could be argued this giant Green Anaconda had been fattened up in captivity, sitting in someone’s basement until it was presented with an opportunity to escape into the wilds of western Alabama.  But, if we look at the vegetation bordering the road, we can see it’s much more typical of a South American jungle (where the Green Anaconda normally lives) than of an Alabama landscape.

    We can confidently conclude that either the entire e-mail was a hoax, or someone was trying to prank their mother, who, not getting the joke, contacted the Alabama Department of Natural Resources for help.

    Further internet searches reveal this photograph has been used in additional pranks.  Past e-mails have been forwarded about with the exclamation this snake was an “Australian Speed Bump” encountered near Gloucester, Australia.  Well…Australia is far, far away from where you can find Anacondas.

    Residents of Alabama (and Australia) can rest easy, knowing the massive snake in the provided photographs is currently thousands of miles away, likely swimming through the vast and wild marshes of Brazil.


Ted C. MacRae said...

I love these 'monster' debunking posts.

David Steen said...

Thanks Ted. They're fun to write too...Remember to send along any additional stories that end up in your inbox.

Miss T said...

I just recieved this as a forward an 'Australian Speed Bump' from my dad. First I tried Snopes, but they had nothing on it, so then I googled "Australian Speed Bump Snake" and found your post. I LOVE debunking email forwards. Thanks!


David Steen said...

Thanks T. I hope you sent your Dad this link so we can stop this story in its tracks.