Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author of "Cool Creatures, Hot Planet," "Endangered Edens," and the "Time Is Irreverent" series.

Alligator vs Everglades Racer

Marty’s photo of the day #2769: I’ll let an excerpt from my second book, Endangered Edens: Exploring the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica, the Everglades, and Puerto Rico, explain this shot:

What’s that! My eyes widened. An Everglades racer was slithering past my knee, heading for the alligator. “This isn’t going to end well,” I said to myself. But soon the three-foot-long snake was halfway across the alligator’s tail, where she paused to look around before continuing on her way.

Although neither snake nor alligator seemed concerned about each other, I had a dilemma. Do I hang out with the gator or follow the snake? I carefully backed off and arced around the bigger of the two reptiles.

Past experience has taught me that snakes—especially small ones—don’t stick around when humans are present. This Everglades racer, however, was locked in on a hunting expedition, and seemingly nothing could distract her. Crawling on my hands and knees, I followed the snake as she worked her way through the low-growing leafy plants alongside the road. She was obviously on the trail of something, as she’d stop, flick out her tongue to pick up the chemical scent of her prey, and adjust her path accordingly. (Even though a snake can smell through its nostrils, its forked tongue is more efficient, as it deposits information directly into the Jacobson’s organ on the roof of its mouth.) Sometimes she’d even crawl in a circle, but always she’d return to crawling in the direction she had started.

I’m usually tempted to catch the snakes I find for a brief, up-close examination. This time, however, I was content to merely observe. She was so focused on her task that not only did I feel as if I was on the hunting expedition with her, but I could also take some pretty cool photos at close-range.

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