Spitting Cobra Gets Another, Bigger Snake Stuck in Its Throat

A spitting cobra hatchling in South Africa got a much larger snake stuck in its throat after it tried to eat it.

Snake catcher Nick Evans—who provides a snake removal service in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province—said on a Facebook post that he arrived at a property in the Paradise Valley area of Greater Durban to find the baby Mozambique spitting cobra trying to regurgitate its meal.

Evans said the cobra, which had only hatched in the past few weeks, had been trying to swallow an adult brown water snake which was about 3 inches longer than itself.

"[The brown water snake was] not a large one, although I'd consider it an adult. They're a non-venomous, extremely docile species. Cobras aren't quite like that, especially when they smell food," Evans said.

By the time Evans arrived, the cobra had already been scooped into a box by the resident as it tried to devour its prey. Evans said its meal had become stuck in the cobra's throat where the snake was folded.

A picture posted to Facebook shows the spitting cobra's body swelling up as it attempts to swallow the snake. The rest of the brown water snake can be seen dangling from the cobra's mouth.

The spitting cobra had tried to eat a snake 3 inches larger than itself

Evans said the cobra "tried and tried, and wasn't winning" to regurgitate the snake, so he assisted by pressing down on the brown water snake with his hook. The cobra then managed to spit the snake out.

The Mozambique spitting cobra is native to Southern Africa. Its diet usually consists of small mammals, frogs, birds and other snakes. The snake is considered one of the most dangerous in Africa. As well as administering a highly venomous bite, it can spit venom from 8 feet away. Fully grown, it reaches an average length of 4 feet.

A bite from a spitting cobra can kill a person if it is not treated quickly and can cause severe tissue damage. Occasionally, people who stumble across an unsuspecting spitting cobra end up with venom in their eyes, which can be painful, but not fatal.

Snakes are able to swallow large prey because they have flexible skulls. Sometimes, they will accidentally swallow prey too large, and in most cases, they will have to spit it back out.

If the snake is unable to regurgitate the prey, it may die.

The snake catcher said on Facebook that he has experienced this type of incident before. Last season, he said he was called to remove a juvenile cobra that had attempted to eat a "much larger" spotted bush snake.

"These little guys clearly need to learn what they can actually eat," Evans said.

Evans said the day had been a busy one for Mozambique spitting cobras, as he had five calls to remove them.

Mozambique spitting cobra
A stock photo shows a Mozambique spitting cobra. The species can spit venom from 8 feet away. Digital Vision/Getty Images