After a bloody battle!

On 09 April 2014, I spotted an Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) in a wooded area near the observation tower at Huntley Meadows Park. Notice the blood stains and wounds on the head of the gartersnake, as well as the large lump in its body one-third of the way between the snake’s head and tail.

It’s time for an episode of “CSI: Huntley.” The evidence indicates the blood stains are relatively fresh and the snake ate recently. Question is, who was the predator and who was the prey? There are at least two possible answers: The gartersnake was either the predator or the prey.

If the lump in its body is connected with the wounds, then I would say [the prey was] either a small mouse (either white-footed or deer) or a skink (skinks have nails as well). If the lump and wounds are not connected, then it could be [the result of] a battle with a predator like a raccoon, fox, crow, hawk, owl or [Northern] Black Racer. Source Credit: Kevin Munroe, Park Manager, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County Park Authority.

Since we can’t interrogate the snake, the only way to know what actually happened would be to remove the remains of the animal forming the lump in the gartersnake’s body and compare its blood type with the blood type on the snake’s head: If the blood types match, then the snake was probably the predator; if the blood on the gartersnake’s head is its own, then the snake was probably the prey.

For what it’s worth, I favor the conclusion that the snake was the predator and the blood stains and wounds are the result of a bloody battle with its prey.

Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis)

Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis)

Usually I wouldn’t publish a photo like the one shown below. It appears as though a plant stem is “growing” from the top of the snake’s head. That’s a good example of bad composition. I used the photo because it’s the only shot I took showing a view of the left side of the snake’s head.

Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis)

The following gallery shows a couple of full-length shots of the gartersnake, and a closer view of the lump in its body. I estimate the snake is three- to four feet long.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “After a bloody battle!”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    I am not sure that you will get picked up by the networks as a new version of CSI, but your mystery attracted my attention. It’s so rare that we are able to see the interactions between species that take place behind the scenes (or at night), or even the results of such interactions, as is the case here. Predator or prey? No creature has a monopoly on one of these roles–at some point in time they play them both.

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