Like snakes? This is a story of snake predation skills, so this is a story for you. Hate snakes? One meets his demise so this is a story for you as well. How is this possible? Read on…
Meet the Southern Black Racer Snake (Coluber constrictor priapus), a non-venomous slitherer. It just so happens that I was slapped by the snake’s tail. Truth is I’m not exactly sure who’s tail I was slapped with but a snake’s tail it was.
Wandering around out back, not far from the pond, I was moseying along a path that the brush has overgrown a bit. I innocently stepped on my snake friend having not seen him (her?) in the taller grass. That’s when the tail slapped me. As I looked, I was a little taken aback…not from fear, but from astonishment as a bigger snake was wresting with a smaller snake and I’m not sure if the bigger guy slapped me with his own tail, or was swinging the smaller snake around and slapped me with the other guy’s tail. Or perhaps it was his head I was slapped with.
I immediately started clicking the camera, but the snakes were thrashing and then backing up. Surprisingly, they move as quickly backward as they do forward. These very dexterous snakes slithered off into some side brush before I could get any clear shots.
I was not about to miss photographing this encounter, so I ran over to grab a groundsel sapling that I had just upended and used it as a probe to move away the dried grass and pine needles. I saw out of the corner of my eye that the snakes had moved in unison to the left. Still backing up, but slower so that I could at least get some photos.
I watched as the older manhandled the younger flipping and grabbing him by the throat. I cringed as he took him down (if you are already on the ground, can you be legitimately be “taken down”????). Then I watched in horror as he inhaled him like some sort of fat spaghetti and the smaller snake disappeared ever so slowly.
I wasn’t entirely confident in my identification of the smaller snake, so I dashed off a few photos to my trusty pal Swamp Girl of Swamp Girl Adventures fame. She quickly replied that I had two black racer snakes…one adult, one juvenile. I was confident in my identification of the adult, but juveniles have a range of different color and pattern configurations, so I leave it to the experts to tell me what I am seeing. These snakes are thin and long…VERY long. Two to five foot long.
Now, Swamp Girl, also known as Kim, works with snakes and other critters, doing rescue, educational programs with live critters, videos and such. She reported that she had heard of this type of behavior, but had never actually witnessed it.
The diet of the Black Racer Snake includes insects, lizards, birds, rodents, amphibians and obviously, other snakes. They consume their bounty live.
Hmmmmm…could my successful rat control endeavors have left my poor snakes hungry and with no alternatives but to resort to this cannibalistic diet??? Now that I think about it, the population of brown anoles seems to have waned somewhat. But heck, there are still plenty of invasive cuban treefrogs that I would sure love to be rid of, but of course, being non-native to Florida, they aren’t high on the diet list of our native fauna.
It should be noted that Black Racers are pretty adept at climbing trees, so it pays to look up if you are “snake hunting” with your camera. You can encourage snakes to take up residence in your yard by providing brush and woodpiles or similar materials for them to take cover in. They also will use burrows in the ground, so get them a mole and an armadillo or two. Hehehe. They are not aggressive, but they will bite if you corner them. I can speak from experience that they don’t bite if you step on them…well, at least not when they have a snake in their mouth, or when their head is in the mouth of another snake.
On the other side of it, Black Racer Snakes are eaten by birds, mammals, kingsnakes and ummmm, obviously larger Racers.
So, we have a clear example of survival of the fittest, or a clear example of bullying, depending on whose side you were on. Another exciting week for me since, as we all know, I need a new encounter story each week and in my never-ending habitat of a yard, Mother Nature refuses to let me down. Mom is handy that way.
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