Woman Who Woke Up With Snake Trying to Eat Her 'Reached Inside' its Mouth to 'Tear its Bite Free'

Lea-Ann Mears, an Australian woman who woke up to find a snake trying to eat her, has said she had to reach inside the animal's jaw to tear its teeth from her buttock to escape the attack.

The snake, a 12 foot long scrub python (Simalia amethistina) weighing 10 pounds, had made its way to Mears' house from nearby woodland. It entered her bedroom on the evening of March 9, 2014, through the sliding screen door that Mears had temporarily left open to allow a breeze through on a warm night.

When she slid the door shut she had unknowingly trapped the snake in the room with her. Mears awoke at 2.28 a.m. local time with her right leg in its grip, and the snake then coiled around her body.

"In the moment it certainly had my heart racing, the combination of the surprise and the pain of being bitten in the dark was quite shocking, and I was perhaps acutely aware in that moment that I was otherwise alone in the room with my husband away at the time," Mears told Newsweek via email.

"My first reaction was to feel down at the bite site, and simultaneously reaching up for a light switch to see what was happening. Upon recognizing what it was, I opted to tear its bite free before it had an opportunity to wrap any part of my body.

"As it's mouth was quite wide so as to latch on to my lower gluteal region, as I took a hold of it my fingers reached inside the jaw and the subsequent action of pulling the bite free from my leg caused minor lacerations to both my buttock and fingers."

Mears managed to avoid being coiled up by the snake, before trapping it in the kitchen.

"At the advice of my husband I sought immediate medical attention to ensure that no teeth had been broken off in the skin, nor suffered any more serious injury I might have otherwise overlooked," she said. "Fortunately neither of those issues were apparent. The teeth cause such fine incisions that the injuries did not require any significant medical treatment."

A team of researchers had fitted the snake with a tracker five weeks before the night of the attack. Although scrub pythons are non-venomous, common in the Lockerbie Scrub area of Cape York Peninsula, and not considered a threat to people, they have been known to attack pets and small children.

Mears was living with two small children aged one and three at the time. Hours before the attack took place she was told by Daniel Natusch, the lead researcher, that the snake was very close to the house and that she should lock the windows and doors of her children's room to protect them.

"Undoubtedly our living arrangement contributed to the situation. Our house is an 'off grid' dwelling, utilising shipping containers converted to rooms," Mears said.

"The bedroom door is a sliding screen door, and is the only true barrier to the wilderness outside. Not to mention I had been aware thanks to Daniel's tracking that the snake had earlier that day been literally sleeping only a few feet away under a timber floor next to the bedroom in question."

The snake was released 650 feet away the day after the attack, but then returned to Mears' house 10 months later and asphyxiated her dog Ninja, a purebred Catahoula weighing 55 pounds.

"We thwarted the attempt having heard the yelp of the dog as it initiated the attack. In the approximate 15 seconds it might have taken to reach the kennel it had successfully strangled the dog, which was losing consciousness and falling to its side as we began unwrapping the pythons coils," Mears said.

"The dog regained consciousness unaided within a few seconds and aside from minor lacerations around one ear it was totally fine. That dog was one of four in the kennel."

Over the course of 11 years, Mears says she and her family have had to thwart snake attacks on two large dogs, Ninja and Harley, a mastiff/bulldog cross weighing 88 pounds, and three puppies under eight weeks old.

Despite these incidents, Mears' attitude to scrub pythons remains unchanged.

"I understand them to be opportunistic, but not necessarily very calculated," she said. "I am aware of a handful of other occasions in recent history (and in our region) where other human 'attacks' have occurred and in each case it would seem that while the python may have been capable of asphyxiating the the individuals involved under the right circumstances, it would not have been physically capable of ingesting them were it actually successful.

"In my case, I think it's highly unlikely the snake was able to comprehend my size when most of my body was obscured by a blanket. There's also the possibility the bite was in fact a defensive move, it may have actually brushed against my skin while exploring the room and in my sleep I may have brushed or swatted it away, prompting a bite.

"We know from our own sightings and bolstered by the data collected in Daniel's studies that we are surrounded by thousands of specimens in the area, and yet have relatively few encounters with them."

scrub python snake sydney zoo australia
Senior reptile keepers hold a 17-foot scrub python after he is weighed (at around 57 pounds) on July 14, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. The scrub python that attacked Lea-Ann Mears asphyxiated her dog less than a year later. Don Arnold/WireImage via Getty Images