SCMP, Hazel Knowles
After punching the snake in the head to no avail she stabbed it in order to save Dexter’s life
A woman fought frantically to save the life of her pet dog when it was attacked by a five-metre python in Sai Kung West Country Park.
Courtney Link repeatedly punched the huge snake and stabbed it with a pocket knife until it released its grip on her two-year-old mongrel Dexter and slid away.
Now she has issued a warning to other dog owners to be on guard against pythons while out walking in the country park.
The attack occurred last weekend as Link was walking Dexter, who weighs about 24kg, with husband Pete on a trail around the Wan Tsai peninsula close to Hoi Ha.
Dexter ran ahead and out of sight. Seconds later the couple heard “frantic barking and a strange gurgling noise”.
Link said at first they thought Dexter had encountered a wild boar. But when they ran ahead they found the dog was in the deadly grip of the python, which appeared to be about five metres long and was coiled around the dog’s body, neck and head.
“I immediately began to pummel the snake with my fists, but to no avail,” said Link, a British expatriate who lives in Sai Kung. She added: “In fact, if anything, our beating and pummeling was having the opposite effect, as the python seemed to constrict even tighter.”
Her husband remembered he had packed his pocket knife and pulled it from his backpack.
“I prepared to get bittenand tried to mentally prepare myself for the pain! I remember us pulling the tail but the snake started to wrap slowly around my wrist.”
Link continued: “Dexter was starting to weaken and he eventually stopped struggling altogether. At that point we really thought we had lost him. So when I suddenly saw the snake’s head, I just started stabbing furiously.”
It was enough to make the snake loosen its grip and it slowly slithered away, leaving the dog stunned and injured, but alive.
Link, who runs a pet-sitting service, used her training in responding to canine emergencies to administer help to Dexter.
However, the drama was not quite over as the couple realised they had lost their torch in the commotion – and it was getting dark.
“In all the panic we had lost our only flashlight so now we had the prospect of a lengthy hike through dense jungle in the pitch black not knowing how intensive Dexter’s injuries were.”
Dexter was bleeding so heavily that his canine bandage kept falling off.
“In utter desperation I began shredding the dress I was wearing to make strips of bandage,” said Link, who also offers a pet portraits service. “I even used my hair bobble to keep these bandages in place,” she added.
Luckily, Dexter’s injuries were not as serious as first thought. “Apart from some nasty bite wounds to his chest and legs, Dexter has made a complete recovery and he is back to his exuberant and hyper self.”
She added: “I deeply regret I had to seriously injure a protected animal, but I acted only to save the life of my dog.”
A spokeswoman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department confirmed Link had reported the python attack.
In general, pythons are unlikely to attack unless provoked, she said, but warned that people with pets should try to avoid areas where pythons tend to linger for food and shelter, such as dense vegetation.
Together with Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, the department is microchipping pythons in Hong Kong and then releasing them back into the wilderness, away from humans.
Since the project began in 2010, a total of 442 pythons have been microchipped following reports from the public.
Some have been captured and released more than once.
Python peril in Sai Kung Country Park has been evident for years
The Burmese python is Hong Kong’s biggest natural predator and can grow up to six metres long. It normally eats small mammals such as barking deer or wild cats. However, there have been several cases of larger snakes seeking out bigger mammals such as pet dogs.
In July 2006, a python grabbed and killed a 22kg husky dog on a walking trail in Sai Kung Country Park. A year later, dog owner Catherine Leonard freed her 20kg mongrel from the grip of a similar python by kicking and punching the snake.
Then in 2010, teacher Robert Stearns, 60, rescued his 15kg dog after prising open the mouth of a four-metre python with his hands and beating the snake with an umbrella.
All three attacks occurred near Pak Tam Chung at the entrance of Sai Kung Country Park and resulted in signs being erected by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department warning the public to be on their guard against pythons.
After last week’s attack, a department spokeswoman reminded the public of what to do if they encounter a snake. “The most important thing is to stay calm and stand still, then slowly move away, giving the snake a chance to flee,” she said. “If a snake poses a threat, you should call the police. In the case of a snake bite, the victim should seek medical treatment as soon as possible.”