In an epic battle between small fluffy rodent and snake, not many people would bet on the former to come out on top, which is probably why these photos of a rock squirrel chowing down on a whipsnake are making the rounds again. You just don’t see this every day.
The photos show the squirrel holding the snake with both paws, in what looks like a case of serpenticide by strangulation, before the furry critter goes on to eat almost the entire thing.
To be fair, rock squirrels are one of the largest members of the Sciuridae family. Reaching over 50 centimeters (20 inches) in length, it may not be quite on a par with India’s rainbow-hued giant, which can reach just under a meter (3 feet), but it’s no mouse.
The nonvenomous desert striped whipsnake, its unlucky victim, can reach a length of up to 183 centimeters (72 inches), but according to William Leggett, who took the photo back in 2009, the squirrel was a nursing female so was “extra defensive”, suggesting her babies were nearby.
Leggett, who snapped the photos when he was a ranger at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas, told Huffington Post in 2015 – when the images went viral again – that he’d heard a commotion and gone outside to investigate. “When I looked over, the snake and the squirrel were already fighting," he said.
Although rock squirrels mainly eat leaves, seeds, acorns, fruits, and nuts, they are omnivores so occasionally consume insects, birds eggs, lizards, and snakes.
After she’d won the battle, she was just “taking advantage of a good meal,” Leggett said.
The images went viral again in 2015 after Elizabeth Jackson, a public information officer at Guadeloupe Mountains NP, shared the image on their Facebook page, captioning it: Don’t mess with Texas squirrels! The image was “from the vault”, she told San Antonio Express-News at the time.
“It’s something that we thought would be fun,” she said. “It’s a fun vision of our wildlife.”
Sure, if your version of fun is showing a cute fluffy eating a headless snake “bones and all, down to the last two inches."
Jackson said that a squirrel eating a snake is not actually that unusual, but to capture it on camera is, which is perhaps why the general public is surprised by its behavior. “It’s interesting to see what most people don’t witness,” she said.
Thanks for sharing (er, we think)!