I have been walking the dog on the same country park path for 25 years. Over the years different dogs have come and gone. The path remains pleasant, and a few years ago the District Council paved the whole thing, which is probably offensive to serious hikers but suits my ageing legs fine. The resulting warm relationship with Nature was rudely disrupted last Saturday when a large snake emerged from the undergrowth and made a grab for the current dog.

A python. File photo: Tomáš Malík via Pexels.com.

This was a distressing moment for everyone concerned. Lemon the dog gave a pained yelp. The snake, though silent, must have been disappointed. Lemon is large and agile so the snake was clinging only to a back leg. I was bewildered.

I have since been told by my son, who takes an interest in these things, that on occasions like this you should grab the snake’s tail and crack it like a whip. This is clearly intended for smaller snakes than my antagonist, which was about six feet long and as thick as a drainpipe. But no doubt if you follow this advice the snake’s head will eventually stop what it is doing and come back to sort you out.

However having no relevant training I just did what came naturally and grabbed the snake’s head. The snake retaliated by coiling its bottom half around my left leg and squeezing. There followed an inconclusive passage in which I tried in vain to find some way of discouraging the snake by working on its head. Then I had a moment of inspiration – I still had the dog’s lead in my hand. So I made a loop with this round the snake’s neck, held it down with the still-free right foot and garrotted it.

This did not produce any immediately obvious results but the snake got the message, and opened its mouth. The dog retired to a safe distance, and at that point everyone just wanted to go home. I retrieved the lead, the snake unwound itself from round my leg and we all left.

Lemon. Photo: Tim Hamlett.

The dog needed stitches and I have some interesting new scars. Whether the snake was injured I don’t know and don’t much care. It left under its own steam. No doubt the snake was just doing what comes naturally to a wild carnivore. Nature, as we used to be told, is red in tooth and claw. But I also have instincts, and they include a violent dislike for anything that tries to eat my dog.

Clearly this snake is potentially dangerous. It let me pass unmolested but Lemon is quite an ambitious target – she is a big dog, about two foot six tall at the shoulder, and weighs 40 pounds. A snake which is hungry and big enough to tackle that might well be tempted by a small child, or even by a small adult.

So I sent an email to the government’s all-purpose hot email line and got a reply half a week later saying that if personally threatened by a snake I should call 999, and if I thought this one was generally dangerous I should report it to Shatin Police Station. It’s a bit late for that. Anyway I rather suspect that the snake has little to fear from the Law as long as it doesn’t bite a policeman.

But if any collectors are listening, go up the path from Wong Chuk Yeung Village, turn right and you may find a somewhat chastened python. Approach with care. He’s probably hungry.

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Tim Hamlett

Tim Hamlett came to Hong Kong in 1980 to work for the Hong Kong Standard and has contributed to, or worked for, most of Hong Kong's English-language media outlets, notably as the editor of the Standard's award-winning investigative team, as a columnist in the SCMP and as a presenter of RTHK's Mediawatch. In 1988 he became a full-time journalism teacher. Since officially retiring nine years ago, he has concentrated on music, dance, blogging and a very time-consuming dog.