The woma is a large python with an average length of 1.5 m and a maximum length of approximately 2.7 m. This python is brilliantly patterned with a background colour of glossy yellowish or reddish brown to a pale greenish brown. This is accompanied by numerous dark transverse bands on the body and tail. The underside is cream to yellow with several pink or brown blotches. Juveniles bear a conspicuous dark patch over each eye, which may persist into adulthood. The small eyes and narrow head (which is barely distinct from its neck) distinguishes the woma from other python species.
The woma and the closely related black-headed python Aspidites melanocephalus are the only pythons that lack heat sensitive pits along the lips and front of the head. These features sometimes result in the woma being mistaken for a venomous snake, although like all pythons, it is harmless to humans.
Habitat and Range
The woma is widespread throughout arid and semi-arid Australia from coastal Western Australia to western Queensland. In Queensland, the species occurs in the dry subtropics from the Northern Territory border to the Yuleba/Surat/St George area, in the western margins of the Brigalow Belt. These populations appear to be isolated from those in the far west of the state, possibly due to European land use in the Mitchell Grasslands and Mulga Lands. In the Brigalow Belt region, this species occurs on black soils and in stony ridge country in brigalow Acacia harpophylla woodland and grasslands. The woma is known from several state forests.
This nocturnal species is occasionally seen basking during mild weather. Unlike other pythons, the woma is a ground dweller that seeks shelter in hollow logs, animal burrows or thick herbage during the day. It can also use its head like a shovel to dig and enlarge its burrow. The woma is an egg layer, laying up to 22 eggs per clutch. It incubates and protects its eggs by coiling its body around the clutch continually until they hatch.
The woma forages in the evening and at night, usually by ambushing its prey which includes reptiles, ground birds and small mammals, including the introduced hare and rabbit.
The woma is threatened by habitat loss due to land clearing and thinning operations, inappropriate road side management and predation by feral animals such as foxes and cats.
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Text © Queensland Goverment (Dept of Environment and Heritage Protection)