100701. Cape Town. SPCA's Wildlife Unit Supervisor, Brett Glasby, inspecting the 8,2 kg African Rock Python at the Cape of Good Hope SPCA. Picture Henk Kruger/Cape Argus

Durban - A Richards Bay woman courageously wrestled a huge African rock python to save her dog.

When pensioner Denny Bramford, 60, heard Kaptein, her 9-month-old fox terrier, barking on Saturday morning, she thought he was just reacting to the monkeys in the green belt opposite her yard in Arboretum.

Then Bramford heard harrowing cries from her pet, followed by silence.

Speaking to the Daily News on Monday, she said she had gone outside to investigate.

“I found a huge snake had wrapped itself around Kaptein. All I could see were his hind legs sticking out,” she said.

Adult pythons average between 3m and 4m, growing up to 5m.

Thinking only that she had to save her pet’s life, the brave woman first grabbed the protruding hind legs and tried to pull him from the python’s grip, but failed.

“I knew I had to resort to something else and that’s when I grabbed and pulled the snake’s tail.”

Bramford said that was when the snake had turned its attention to her and rapidly bit her three times – twice on her right hand and once on her right leg - before disentangling itself from the dog.

Bramford called her neighbours for help and was taken to hospital, where she spent the night. She was discharged on Sunday.

Kaptein had sustained minor injuries in the attack and was taken to the local vet.

“We are both recovering and relaxing at home.

“Kaptein is running around and playing with Trixy, a Jack Russell I own.

“Judging from the bite marks and what the vet told me, it appears as though half his skull was in the snake’s mouth,” Bramford said.

Denny recently had a Jack Russell go missing, and it is thought that the snake might have eaten it.

She said the dog had gone missing on December 18. It had vanished without a trace, she said.

Her neighbours called in Zephian Alberts, a Richards Bay snake expert, to catch the snake.

Alberts said when he went to inspect the garden to see if he could locate and contain the snake, he found only a hole in the ground near the fence and traces of the python’s presence.

“You can tell that it’s been here for quite some time,” he said.

“I showed Denny a picture of the snake and she identified it as an African rock python.”

Alberts said the snakes grew to around 3m to 4m and he believed, judging from the trail, that the one that wanted to eat Kaptein might have been 4m long.

“I could not really go into the bush because I was in my flops and the bush provides the perfect habitat for snakes,” he said.

Alberts said it was normal for pythons to feed on small mammals; however it was quite unusual for them to feed on dogs.

“Denny told me she recently had Jack Russell disappear and she didn’t know where it went. This is speculation, but it could have been eaten by the same snake,” he said. It might be that the snake saw the garden as a feeding spot, he said.

“This is compounded by the fact that it is almost hibernating season, so snakes are trying to eat as much as they can.”

He warned residents that they needed to clear any rubble in their yards, especially if they owned small pets, to prevent snakes from attacking them.

* The African rock python is Africa’s largest snake and one of the five largest in the world.

Daily News