When hunting backfires

WhosthebossA while back I came up on a hawk who appeared to have caught something.  Then suddenly there was a blur, some thrashing, and here’s what I saw when I got to it.  In wrestling, we would call that a reversal.  Who’s the boss now? I decided to break it up for the good of the hawk.  Both of those guys help keep the rodent population down and the snake couldn’t eat the hawk.  It seemed a needless death to me.

This is just a re-visitation of a much older post someone recently asked me to find.  Click the photo for the link.

Wildlife Battle

I was fortunate enough to see an amazing wildlife battle yesterday evening.  It was life at its rawest on the Llano Estacado.  I wanted to be an impartial observer but, being human, I stepped in and intervened.  I live in a rural area with a lot of wildlife including many raptors and snakes.  It is not uncommon to see a hawk swoop down and catch a rabbit, rat, mouse, or lizard.  I was heading home to eat so I wasn’t too concerned with watching when a large hawk landed hunched over some prey out in the scrub.  I went past to check our back gate and came back the same way a minute later.  I saw the hawk was hopping around and it looked like it was fighting something.  Due to the brush and growing darkness I couldn’t tell what it was fighting with but wanted to have a closer look.  There was a split second of frenzied activity and suddenly the hawk was flipped onto its back on the ground.  Luckily, I had a camera so I was able to snap off this shot.

She looks shocked!  I would have had a hard time believing it had I not seen it.  A relatively small snake was all over the hawk and choking the life out of it.  It was dark and my initial thought was that it had been bit by a prairie rattler.  The hawk’s beak was open, eyes bulging and obviously gasping for air.  Closer inspection showed the snake to be a gopher snake, and net even a very big one.

My presence was obviously upsetting everybody and there was more thrashing.  The snake was able to hide under the feathers pretty effectively.  I wanted to just grab the snake and unwind it but images of being bitten or clawed by a frightened hawk kept me at a little distance.  Not sure what to do next I was able to call someone down to give me hand.

Can you see terror in her eyes?  At this point I was pretty sure the hawk was done for as the snake had three coils around its neck.  So, I could let it die and have one less chicken killer around or save her to help keep down the rodent population.

I grabbed a yucca stalk to help hold the hawk down while I grabbed for the snake and tried to avoid talons.  I doubt it would have done much but it was all I had.

Here I am awkwardly pulling snake out with one hand and holding the hawk away with the stick.

She got up, staggered around, shook herself out and flew up into a nearby tree.

This irritated snake actually pursued me, snapping at me until I left.  I can’t blame it.  That was a traumatic event.

Anyway, it was a wordy story.  I have spent a lot of time outdoors and seen many interesting animal behaviors but nothing like this before.