A snake has been found in garden pool in Queensland, Australia, with 511 parasitic ticks biting into its skin.
The carpet python was caught in Coolangatta by snake catcher Tony Harrison, who said he has never seen anything like it in 26 years as a professional.
“Here in Australia you often will see an animal, a dog or a cat, with one tick, but here is a snake that has 511 of them so it’s amazing they’re still in one piece,” the 51-year-old told the Press Association.
“It was horrifying, mate, because I’ve got a bit of a phobia of those ticks to start with.”
Mr Harrison said the snake, which he nicknamed Old Nike in reference to the tick in sports brand Nike’s logo, was in the water of the pool to try and drown some of the ticks.
The snake is now at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital being treated for blood loss and infection caused by the parasites, some of which were toxic paralysis ticks, which carry neurotoxins that can paralyse their host.
Mr Harrison, who has played with snakes since he was six years old growing up in Sydney, says there are “good times and bad times” with the job.
“The bad times is the fact it’s seven days a week and we often don’t have a full night’s sleep – for example, last night I got woken up six times,” said Mr Harrison. “I had breakfast at nearly 5pm this evening because I was so busy today.
“Another bad point is I’ve nearly died three times.”
The snake catcher has been bitten by the re-bellied black, rough-scaled and Eastern brown breeds, some of which are regarded as the deadliest in Australia.
“Red-bellied black caused intense pain, Eastern brown I barely felt anything but I nearly died and had seizures and blood cots on the brain,” said Mr Harrison. “The rough-scaled I suffered from anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction, and so couldn’t breathe – chest tightened and my whole body puffed up.
“But I’m lucky in the way that I do (snake catching) with my son and my other half.”
Mr Harrison works and lives with his partner Brooke Smith, 27, with whom he has a young son.
“All three of us do it so we’re not missing out on anything,” he said. “Whereas others can be doing it for 10 hours or 15 hours a day while their other half is at home.
“It’s also good in the way people love you when you turn up and remove the unwanted visitor from their yard.
“They really think you’re a bit of a god because the fact is you’ve just saved their life.”
Mr Harrison broadcasts many of his snake catches live on Facebook and said producers from the Discovery channel and National Geographic have previously approached him to film, but the deals have fallen through.
If you’d like to see more from Mr Harrison and his family’s work, visit their Gold Coast and Brisbane Snake Catcher Facebook page.