When people refer to another human being as a “snake,” they’re usually saying the other person is dishonest, a cheater, etc. Well, whether or not this is always the case in nature, one wilderness guide captured and shared a video of a snake battle in which one of the serpents works hard to live up to that sneaky reputation.
The video was recorded by Justin Harris of White Blaze Outdoors on a mountain cliff in Washington County, Virginia — a mountainous part of the state in its southwestern corner. The battling vipers are timber rattlesnakes, both male, fighting for dominance and the right to mate with any nearby females. But this fight ends in an uncharacteristic way. Just under two minutes into the video, one snake pushes the other one right off the side of the cliff. In an unedited version of the video on YouTube, almost as soon as the losing viper falls off the cliff and disappears, you hear the shocked Harris say “Holy crap.”
While you can see the losing snake hit a rock, it keeps falling and disappears. In the unedited video, Harris points out that beyond the cliff edge is a two or three story drop, meaning while he can’t verify the losing viper’s fate, it doesn’t look too good for the guy.
The probable fatality of the losing snake is a big part of what makes this video unique. For example, not long ago Matthew Moore — wildlife technician for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources — recorded a similar battle between two cottonmouths. Like the timber rattlesnakes, the cottonmouths are vipers and their fights for dominance usually have similar outcomes. While they’re venomous, the snakes don’t bite each other and so these contests are rarely death matches. They tangle their bodies together with each attempting to push the other one down, kind of like a scaly thumb wrestling match. The loser usually flees, leaving the winner to his territory, which is what happened in the Georgia video.
As the Charlotte Obsever points out, you don’t see any female snakes in the video, though that doesn’t mean there isn’t one nearby, perhaps in tunnels beneath the surface.
As for what happened to the losing snake, maybe getting pushed off a cliff during a snake fight can explain what happened to an unsuspecting driver days ago. A hilarious or terrifying video — depending on how you look at it — shows a driver having to deal with a snake that just landed on the hood of their car. Presumably because it has nowhere else to go while the car is still moving, the slithering thing just hangs out on the hood. We never get to see how the story ends, unfortunately, because the video stops with the car pulled over and the reptile still on the hood.
One thing is for certain — if the losing rattlesnake somehow survived his drop to the bottom of the cliff, we can only hope he learned the lesson that the dueling vipers in Georgia already knew. If you’re going to fight another snake, fight in a nice calm creek, instead of on the edge of a cliff.