Early this fall, my husband and I were hiking at our local conservation area, when I noticed something dramatic happening on the path. Usually, when you see a garter snake, it is only for a moment, as it slithers quickly into the grass or the bushes. They are hard to photograph, and we’ve only managed a small image once (See my other blog site: Featured Species). In this case, however, the snake stayed put, and this was because he had a firm grip on the hind leg of a live leopard frog. He wasn’t going anywhere.
It was an epic battle for survival. The frog thrashed desperately around, and the snake, millimetre by millimetre, continued to swallow the leg. Size-wise, we couldn’t imagine what the snake would do once it got past the leg. Of course I’ve heard about snake jaws (and how they aren’t actually connected), but it is difficult to envision in real life. We were able to get an incredibly close look at this interaction, as neither animal was particularly concerned about our presence.
Would you watch? Would you help the snake? Would you help the frog?
Unabashed, flag-waving Trekkies that we are, this quickly turned into a discussion on the prime directive (see prime directive) of non-interference, and we decided let nature take its course. Who are we to decide who wins?
Now, during this encounter, something strange happened. My husband had his camera (see pictures), and was focused on getting a good shot. When another couple came up behind us on the path, I pointed out what we were watching. With not even a glance at the snake and frog, they hurried on their way. As a student of human behaviour, I find this almost as fascinating as the animal battle.
Wouldn’t you stop to watch that? Or at least take a quick look? Although clearly somewhat gory, it was undeniably fascinating. I wished my kids had been there to see it. What a great ecology lesson! We know we aren’t alone in this. There’s a nature channel for a reason.
Eventually the frog and snake thrashed their way into the bushes, and we continued our walk. I was left with three questions.
1. Could that little garter snake’s mouth actually stretch wide enough to fit that whole frog? (A Google image search on the topic would indicate yes.)
2. Are my husband’s amazing frog-snake pictures too gruesome to put on a wall? (If your answer to this last question is yes, ask yourself if a picture of a fish being caught by a bear, an eagle or a human would pose the same problem.)
3. Why wouldn’t those people stop to look at the frog and snake?
I suppose, on the flip side of this, I could ask: “What made us stay?”