Once again, our selection hails from 2009*, but this is likely the last from that year, since my posts were initially quite thin, and most of the images smaller. I happened upon this little scene entirely by paying attention to my hearing, catching the rustle near my feet and pausing to see what made it. This is a black racer (Coluber constrictor,) either northern or southern subspecies, having just captured an eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis.) Racers are nonvenomous, so the garter is quite likely still alive here. It’s the only time I’ve gotten a photo like this, and it’s possible that I was the cause – well, of course I was the cause of the photo being taken, but I mean my passage along the path in the woods might have spooked the garter snake towards the racer, or at least drawn attention to itself. I would have liked to have watched the aftermath, but as the image suggests, I barely had a view as it was and the racer could easily slip out of sight. I elected not to disturb it any more than necessary, especially since I needed the flash to get any shots at all.
I’m always on the lookout for behavioral images of this nature, and rarely see such, probably because most species are aware of me before I’m aware of them, and this halts their stalking and puts them on alert at the least. Many species are vulnerable when eating, and a snake trying to down another snake is going to take a bit of time, so they’re more likely to avoid a meal if it means they might become a meal. And seriously, do you want to surreptitiously stalk a snake? I’ve tried that – the snake had more awareness and patience.
* Initially, I identified this as a northern black racer, though at this point I don’t think it can be differentiated – the range overlaps with the southern variant and they have no outwardly visible difference. Basically, it matters more to them than to us, but simply identifying it as a black racer suffices.