In the 4th Harry Potter movie, a big snake named Nagini, with the help of a charm spell from book villain Voldemort, is directed to kill an intruder to Voldemort’s home.


Though we don’t actually see it, the snake is directed to kill the old man who unfortunately walks in. There is a flash of light and the killing curse said, so does the snake actually kill the old man? And what kind of snake is it, anyway? The snake looks like a type of python, and it actually is shown biting the father of character Ron Weasly in another movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

But that’s not what python snakes do!

In the picture above, you’ll note that pythonlike snakes, like the one in the above picture, may not be as bad as you think. According to Mary-Ruth Low, a conservation and research officer for Wildlife Resources, Singapore, pythons generally avoid people.But there was the case of a woman in Indonesia being attacked by a python and then consumed. They can reach 32 feet in length and reach a big width as well. But python snakes (unlike many other types) do not bite (Harry Potter fans take note). They surround and crush their prey (rodent, cow, mammal) and suffocate them causing cardiac arrest in minutes. Yikes. (Of course, being bitten by a nonpoisonous snake is not fun either, which many snakes do. I volunteered at a park where black rat snakes were on display in a dry aquarium tank. I had a healthy respect for its ability to bite and didn’t tease it.)

As Low pointed out, pythons (like most snakes, the picture above an exception) avoid humans and tend toward eating rats and small animals. After suffocating the animals, they  unhinge their huge jaws and pull the victim into their mouth and down their long body. (More than you wanted to know?)


But snakes in general can actually be friendly. With each other. In a National Geographic article, a study was done with Eastern garter snakes all put inside one room. They would find “other” snakes in the room and touched or went near the ones “they liked,” and would stay in  certain groupings because they were interested in being sociable. Take that, Nagini.

Appreciate snakes. They kill a lot of vermin in the environment and are dry, not slimy.

(Great American Idea) Learn more about snakes by visiting your local library, zoo, or getting a book on snakes at or

(D. J. Mathews is author of the book, Great American Women in Science and Environment. Read a free excerpt (under the price).

“Kid bathing in Thailand with his pet snake” by permanently scatterbrained is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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