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.