What do you call a snake that attacks an owl? You could call it “rare” or you could even call it “unbelievable.” But it might be best to call it nothing at all and back away because any snake willing to go after an owl is not a reptile to be trifled with. Such a beast was captured on video hunting an owl, leaving viewers to speculate as to why it would make such a desperate attack.
The video comes from trail cam footage posted by the Instagram account of The Desert Whisperer. The video is short, but no less surprising for its brevity. We see an owl inching toward a watering hole, seemingly unaware of the presence of any threat. A rattlesnake attacks from its hiding place in the bushes behind the owl, latching onto the bird and hanging on for a few seconds as the owl flies away. The owl escapes, though not before getting the scare of its life. The image below will take you to Desert Whisperer’s Instagram feed where you can see the video yourself.
Below are some screenshots from the footage. The first image shows the owl looking up from the water. In the second shot, you can see the snake’s head darting out from behind the owl to attack it. The third shot shows the owl in flight, trying to desperately escape the rattlesnake.
The fourth screenshot gives us a much clearer view of the rattlesnake hanging down from the owl. It might take a few rewatches to actually spot the splash in the water below as the reptile loses its grip on the owl. In the final screenshot however, you can see the snake’s head poking out of the watering hole as the owl flies to safety.
Field and Stream identifies the rattlesnake as a western diamondback and its would-be prey as a great horned owl. Both Field and Stream and Desert Whisperer point out snake attacks on owls are very rare. Even more surprisingly in light of the video, the Audubon Society lists snakes as one of the great horned owl’s sources of food.
There was another snake attack on an owl recorded in 2017 at Champion Ranch in Rochelle, Texas, though the circumstances of that attack highlight just how strange the event recorded by the Desert Whisperer is. One of the ranch’s guides came across the corpse of a great horned owl killed by a gopher snake. Unlike the cam trail footage released this month, Earth Touch News said in the 2017 incident, it was determined the gopher snake hadn’t been hunting the owl, but instead was likely defending itself against the owl’s attack. Earth Touch News explained the reptile likely was able to wrap itself around the bird’s body before the bird of prey could kill it.
In the original post from the Desert Whisperer, quite a few commenters seemed to be cheering for the owl. However, the caption notes that in order for the snake to be willing to attack the bird, the diamondback was likely starving. Hopefully, it was able to find some less airborne prey.