HomeOutdoorsNewsHawk rescued from black racer snake by Florida police

Hawk rescued from black racer snake by Florida police

by Caitlin Berard
Southern black racer similar to hawk attacker
(Photo by JC Shamrock via Getty Images)

Police in Alachua County, Florida, doubled as raptor rescuers Sunday afternoon when they responded to a call regarding a hawk in distress and found a black racer snake coiled around its neck.

The unusual call began with a tip about an injured hawk lying in the road in a residential area.

Though they weren’t sure of the nature of the hawk’s injury, the most likely explanation was an incident with a vehicle. Hawks are incredibly fast and powerful predators, but even they fall victim to cars now and then when flying too low to hunt potential prey.

Upon their arrival, however, they realized that the hawk’s impairment had nothing to do with a car. Instead, it was the prey the hawk likely swooped down to collect that had the bird of prey in its clutches.

“Deputy Dasher and Deputy Forero arrived to find that the hawk was being strangled by a snake and that death for the hawk was imminent,” the Alachua County Sheriff’s Department wrote in a Facebook post.

A quick breakdown of species. The bird in the video appears to be a red-shouldered hawk, a medium-sized bird of prey averaging just under a foot in height with a wingspan of 3 feet.

Meanwhile, the long, slender North American racer, or black racer, is around 3 feet long on average and weighs 2-5 pounds.

Now, with their stretchy rather than hinged jaws, snakes have an impressive ability to consume prey much larger than themselves. Even with this talent, though, the hawk was an ambitious meal for the little snake. Black racers will sometimes eat bird eggs and small birds, but not comparatively giant birds of prey.

More than likely, however, this attack was one of self-preservation, not hunger.

Black racer was likely attacked by hawk before fighting back

We don’t know the whole story, maybe the black racer was just that hungry. Just kidding, that’s not what happened.

Red-shouldered hawks’ level flight speed is around 34 mph, while their dive speed skyrockets up to 100 mph. While a black racer is fast for a snake, it’s not that fast. They can move at around 8-10 mph, about the same as a brisk jog.

What almost certainly happened is the red-shouldered hawk spotted the snake crossing the road from afar. Swooping down, it attempted to snatch the snake for a meal but fell victim to the snake’s constriction instead.

As the black racer coiled tighter around its attacker’s throat, the hawk’s chance of escape grew slimmer. Luckily for the hawk (but perhaps unluckily for the snake, should the bird have better luck next time), police arrived in time to save it.

While holding the snake’s head down with a baton, the officers gently uncoiled it from the hawk. “Death for the hawk was imminent,” they said. In the end, however, both the snake and the hawk escaped the incident alive.