Snakes are some of the most voracious eaters in the world. As scary as they may be to some, they also provide a key component for any ecosystems in which they live: prey control. In a few recently captured photos, we get to see just how wild and varied the diets of snakes can be!
The Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation clinic, which is located off the North Carolina coast, recently stumbled upon one of the coolest things in the world of snakes. While out walking, someone noticed a snake caught in a thornbush. Upon closer inspection, they realized that the snake was a highly venomous cottonmouth that was severely injured from trying to get loose from the thorns.
Once the rehab clinic took the snake back, they discovered something rather wild. The snake had multiple, deep lacerations across its body that looked to be the result of its struggle to escape the razor-sharp thorns. Placing it under anesthesia, they began to sew the wounds closed. While under the anesthesia, however, the snake ended up vomiting the contents of its stomach on the table for everyone to see.
The stomach contents of the snake were nothing short of amazing, while also being a bit gross! This cottonmouth was in the middle of digesting two snakes and a frog, all at once! Looking at the photos, we can determine the kinds of snakes and the frog that it had eaten.
The two species of snake in the cottonmouth’s stomach can easily be identified as garter snakes, although one is much smaller than the other. Garter snakes are nonvenomous snakes that live almost everywhere in the United States. They mostly eat insects and smaller reptiles, although larger garter snakes can eat small rodents. The frog was a leopard frog, as can be seen from its unique spotted pattern.
Cottonmouths are commonly seen aquatic snakes that live in the southeastern region of the United States. Aside from being some of the largest snakes in the region, they are also among the most venomous. Cottonmouths belong to the pit-viper family and are related to copperheads and rattlesnakes. Overall, cottonmouths are usually placed in between copperheads and rattlesnakes when it comes to how dangerous their venom is. Regardless, you don’t want to be bitten by one!
Cottonmouths will eat pretty much anything, but their favorite foods include frogs, fish, smaller snakes (even other cottonmouths), birds, small mammals, and almost anything else. With a quick strike, they are able to tag their prey with their potent venom and subsequently kill it. Although it won’t normally kill a human, it’s plenty strong enough to kill small animals!
Unfortunately, a lot of fear surrounds cottonmouths, and they are often killed on sight by humans. This is detrimental to the species, but also to the ecosystems in which these snakes are found. Within a few short months, a cottonmouth can easily eat a few pounds of prey, keeping their population in check. Too many frogs making noise in your neighborhood pond? Maybe it’s time for an apex predator!
Thankfully, the cottonmouth that was rescued in the photos fully recovered and was later released (hopefully with a good meal)!
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