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(BBC) — Snake catchers in Australia have rescued a carpet python which was found covered in hundreds of ticks.
The reptile, which was believed to be ill and was coated in the parasites, was lying in a backyard swimming pool on the Gold Coast in Queensland.
A professional handler removed the snake and took it for treatment at a wildlife clinic.
Vets removed more than 500 ticks, snake catcher Tony Harrison told the BBC, and it is expected to recover.
‘Like holding a bag of marbles’
Gold Coast and Brisbane Snake Catchers worker Mr Harrison said he believed the snake – aptly named Nike – had been trying to drown the ticks in the pool.
“Obviously, [the snake] was extremely uncomfortable,” he said.
“Its whole face was swollen and blooming and it was completely overwhelmed by the ticks breeding on him.”
He said removing the tick-laden snake had felt like “holding a bag of marbles that were moving under my hands”.
Snakes often pick up small numbers of ticks or other parasites in the wild, said Associate Prof Bryan Fry from the University of Queensland.
However the presence of such a large amount of ticks indicated that the snake was likely to have an underlying illness, he said, possibly be due to heat stress or drought conditions.
“Clearly it was a seriously unwell animal to have had its natural defences so broken down,” Associate Prof Fry said.
“I doubt it would have survived if it hadn’t been taken out and gotten treatment.”
Mr Harrison later shared that Nike was suffering from an infection, though he was now “doing well”.
“Nike is a bit more sprightly today,” said Mr Harrison in a video shared on the Gold Coast and Brisbane Snake Catcher’s Facebook page.
“[But] he will be a long term patient [at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary] until he is well enough to be released.”