Anacondas eating people: 715 words that had to happen!
OK, due to extreme public/search engine demand, I am finally writing this post: Anacondas eating people! Which they don’t :-[ Or, OK, maybe :-] There hasn’t really been a documented case of an anaconda killing and then eating a person—at least not a well-documented case. Oh, they’ve killed people, sure. Pythons have actually killed more pet owners—12 in the U.S. alone since 1980—partly (and ironically) because they are considered more docile. Anacondas, which people tend not to dumbly drape around their necks, have mostly killed members of indigenous populations in their native range and the occasional Jon Voight.
It’s the eating part that trips them up: Anacondas (and pythons) can’t really get their heads around it. I don’t mean that mentally—they have wee little brains—I mean physically. We are the wrong shape because we have these big, honkin’ shoulders.
The giant, or green, anaconda would have much better luck eating a large deer than a small person. And that makes sense, because various deer-like things are part of its diet. The reason—and here you will have to picture yourself as a snake, stretching the hyper-flexible ligaments of your jaws to swallow a meal much larger than yourself—is that the deer sort of, well, slopes.
Snakes, in general, swallow prey headfirst. That way, they’re going with the grain of the fur and/or any feathers/quills/spines, which then get pressed down and back. Similarly, the legs fold back and, well, if you want to get all Circle of Life about this, it is basically the same way these animals were born in the first place: headfirst, tucked up, and covered with goo. Except, this time, of course, they’re going in.
Unless they have big, wide shoulders, because those don’t really tuck up. So there are a few famous cases of anacondas trying to eat people—scientists think the snakes came across the bodies, you know, predeceased—only to get stuck on the shoulders and end up predeceased themselves by the time the snakes were found. Just like there is that famous picture of an anaconda [skip the remainder of this sentence if you’re squeamish] splitting while trying to eat an especially large alligator.
That last one was really more a question of scale, though. Giant anacondas can and do eat smaller crocodilians, and regularly, since they share habitat. They love spectacled caiman, the nerds of the reptile world, and somewhere, an anaconda is probably eating one right now.
Which raises the question: Could an anaconda eat, like, a small person? The answer: Yeah, totally. Probably an old one too, since they facilitate swallowing by [again, skip if squeamish] breaking the bones of their prey, and that could hypothetically include those pesky shoulders if the person was particularly frail.
Similarly, even the most famous dwarfs and midgets among us, like that one actor and the family on that show, would be in tremendous danger from a giant anaconda. Which brings us to the most sensitive subject, which I have intentionally put last, to build up your resistance. The most likely potential victims—or, as the anacondas call them, NOMbies—would, of course, be children. The snakes, which can grow up to around 30 feet (and almost swallow an adult) could totally swallow a small child, esp. since [squeam alert, x3—why are you still reading, squeamish person?!] their bones are still developing.
And since some humans also share habitat with anacondas, I’d have to say, intuitively, that this has probably happened. You know, somewhere, some time, among some isolated native population. So has an anaconda ever eaten a person? Yeah, probably: someone either very young or very old or just fairly small, and even then, they probably scavenged the corpse.
Is it possible they could hunt, kill, and eat someone, like in the movies? I suppose—but, like, in the same sense that a person might slip on a banana peel and get struck by lightning as they were falling backward into a hidden pirate cave. And, needless to say, if either of those things happens, I will blog about it.