Saturday, May 31, 2008

Black Rat Snake Dines While On My Deck

This morning, just as I was about to go out on the deck in order to feed the birds and squirrels, I noticed that there was a large black rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta) on the deck. It had picked up a dead downy woodpecker that must have hit the glass doors a day or two ago and was carrying it off. I guess I startled it, because it abandoned its breakfast temporarily.

One of the most interesting things to me was the squirrels' reaction to it. It's rare to see squirrels focused on things other than food and each other, so I was fascinated by their effectively taunting the snake after it had climbed into one of the chairs, as you can see in the video.

Eventually, it went back over to the dead bird to dine. No matter how many times I've seen nature documentaries, these things don't really sink in unless I see them with my own eyes. I'm not sure I would have appreciated it as much if the snake had been eating a live bird or mammal, but in this case it was doing me a service by cleaning off my deck.

Despite the fact that it was already dead, it looked to me as if the snake were going through the motions of trying to kill it again.

About eight minutes passed between when these two photos were taken and you can barely even see a lump in the second one. There wasn't a trace of the bird left on the deck, not even a feather.


  1. Valerie10:11 PM

    Great pics. We have a black rat snake in our yard, and I'm happy to think of all the really fearsome things (like mice) he eats.

  2. Gah! That is so scary. I had a snake outside my window recently, but no rattle.

    Also hi. I'm Abby. I saw you at the Tweetup, but I never really met you. I was really trying to take as many pictures as possible! So hello fellow Twitter Diva!

  3. When I was a kid living on a farm in the mountains, we had a 7 foot long black rat snake that adopted our back porch. It liked to crawl up on my dad's big wood turning device and settle into a coil on top. There was usually good sun in this spot, and it a snake can look content, it sure seemed to. My parents told us this was a "good" snake to have around, because it helped to keep the mice down. It would disappear in winter, then come back in spring/summer.

  4. I really like snakes and think they are cool, so I didn't think it was scary at all. :)

    @abby Hello! I was hoping to meet you, but I'm glad you were spending the time taking all those great pics. Hopefully we can actually meet soon.

    @Samantha: 7 feet! Wow.

  5. That was so gross, but I couldn't stop watching. I hate snakes, but I'm absolutely fascinated by them. I love when they have documentaries on them on the Discovery channel. This is better than those though b/c it seems so much more real since it's on your deck!!!!!