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The Young and the Wild on the Streets of LA

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 18, 2014

Gopher snake schools juvenile red-tailed hawk on the streets of the city

Gopher snake schools juvenile red-tailed hawk on the streets of the city

I’ve written a few posts lately about wildlife in the city.  Then, last night on Facebook, I  happened to run across this strange photo, taken on December 28 in the middle of Los Angeles, not far from Dodger Stadium.

The photographer was “David A.”  and this account seems to come from a friend:  “It’s hard to say what a hawk was doing tangled up with a snake in the middle of Scott Avenue in Echo Park on Friday afternoon. But David A., who snapped the photo above, and a few other people watched and waited as the serpent and bird of prey were locked in a strange embrace on the pavement near Elysian Park: ‘I thought I heard one person say that they thought the hawk had been run over as it just came down with the snake in the street. It must have just grabbed it. I was there maybe five minutes. In that time, the hawk was in the position pictured and the snake was slowly freeing itself (not so much wrestling). The hawk wasn’t moving much. We stood by to make sure no cars would run them over. Once free, the hawk flew off and seemed to not be harmed. The drama ended with the snake slowly slithering back in the direction of the park,’ David said.”

One Facebook commenter suggested that, in the manner of Hollywood stars drawing unwanted attention, the hawk is saying, “No pictures, please.”

Here’s a more informed explanation by Greg Pauly of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.

The posting also brought out this even more spectacular photo of a similar event in Costa Rica:

(Photo: © Federico Oviedo-Brenes)

(Photo: © Federico Oviedo-Brenes)

Here’s a description of what happened:  “This started out as a predation attempt by a Buteo magnirostris (Roadside Hawk) on a Mastigodryas melanolomus (Salmon-bellied Racer) in Costa Rica. But the tables were turned as the snake managed to tie up the hawk to the point of exhaustion. Photo © Federico Oviedo-Brenes et al. (2013. Herpetological Review 44[4]:693).”

UPDATE:  Having posted this earlier this morning, I now find myself trying to work while watching a hawk that appears to have corner a songbird in a rosebush just outside my office.  With apologies for the very poor photo:


3 Responses to “The Young and the Wild on the Streets of LA”

  1. Wow! Great photos! I am a falconer, as well as a herper, and it is rare to see a snake of any kind get the best of a raptor!

  2. Nancy said

    Reblogged this on "OUR WORLD".

  3. mskvarla36 said

    Reblogged this on Skvarla Falconry and commented:
    As hawking season gets closer, a lot of falconers, especially apprentices, are chomping at the bit to fly their bird(s). I’ve heard multiple stories of people flying before it gets cold and having their red-tail catch a copperhead. It’s just not venomous snakes that can pose a threat to you bird, even large red-tails, as these photos demonstrate.

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