Phishing snakes

The following photos show one or more Northern Watersnakes (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) spotted during photowalks along the boardwalk in the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park in mid-September 2014.

What do you see when you look at the following photos? I think most people would say they see a snake lying on a log, sunning itself. Now look more closely at the full-size versions of each photo — there’s more than meets the eye!

Several fish are visible in the water. Notice most of the fish are located under the log. Like all animals, fish need food and shelter in order to survive. Many species of fish prefer to find a holding place that provides shelter, such as the log, and look for food as it passes their safe spot.

Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon)

15 September 2014

Over a period lasting several days, I observed one or more snakes hunting fish at the same location. The snake would lie perfectly still on top of the log; as soon as the fish were lulled into a false sense of security, the snake would slip into the water suddenly and snag an unsuspecting fish. The same thing happened again and again, so I’m guessing the snake(s) figured out a good strategy for finding food easily.

Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon)

15 September 2014

A few days later, there were noticeably fewer fish hiding below the log. Can you say “overfishing?”

Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon)

19 September 2014

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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