PHOTO: Wildlife Officials Capture Rare Moment Florida Pine Snake Devours Cottontail Rabbit

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Wildlife officials in Florida surveying a forest came across an incredible sight: a Florida pine snake eating an entire cottontail rabbit.

On Oct. 26, a biologist with Florida Fish and Wildlife named Araks Ohanyan was working in the Ocala National Forest. She saw an object in the middle of the road.

Ohanyan and other biologists walked closer and realized what it was: the rare and non-venomous Florida pine snake. However, the snake had a companion: a young eastern cottontail rabbit that it was swallowing.

“After the snake finished its meal, it disappeared into the vegetation before reappearing and becoming quite curious about our biologist’s camera, allowing them to take some close-up shots before parting ways,” according to FWC.

Wildlife officials said the Florida pine snake remains one of the largest snakes in eastern North America. It can grow up to 90 inches, an astonishing length.

The snake is described as a “powerful constrictor” that feeds on mammals. It also kills ground-dwelling birds and bird eggs. However, the species is considered a threatened species in Florida. Florida pine snakes have decreased in population primarily because of habitat loss since the 1980s. FWC officials report that these snakes are difficult to survey since they spend much of their time underground.

If you ever spot a Florida pine snake, FWC asks that you submit detailed information because they’re such a rarity. They even request that you submit a photo, if you can, to the FWC website.

However, the rabbit species found here can be located throughout Florida. There are two types of rabbits in the Sunshine State: the Eastern cottontail and the marsh rabbit.

Florida Pine Snake Found Throughout Southern and Eastern United States

The species of Florida pine snake, scientifically known as P. melanoleucus is found only in the United States. However, you can find the animal across the southern and eastern parts of the country. These creatures can be found in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. They’re also found in east coast states like New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia. 

The subspecies is found across the country.

The pine snake inhabits a wide range of habitats. They live in pine flatwoods, sandy pine-oak woodlands, prairies, cultivated field, open brushland, and rocky desert.

These snakes can also live at sea level all the way up to an elevation of 9,000 ft. The species requires well-drained, sandy soil without much vegetation for nesting and hibernation purposes.

Communities of the pine snake in New Jersey were found to hibernate communally. However, communities in other regions like Tennessee were found to hibernate solo.

When disturbed, it often hisses loudly. It sometimes flattens its head and vibrates its tail in these times. It will eventually strike at an intruder if it feels threatened.