I found a large Grey Rat Snake on the mutt path in the back acre. Sam, who was still shaken over the firm yet unmistakable put down of The Wednesday Nigh Cat Insurrection, heeded me well when I told him to get away from the snake. He went to the next area code and sat it out. Bert, whose position in the pack remained unchanged but had the distance between two and top opened up a bit, remained to guard me. I can’t fault him for that, and I didn’t.
This isn’t a young or inexperienced snake. He knows he’s surrounded, knows the cool weather plays against him, and knows that if he is going to take a shot at one thing in front the other thing in back might zap him.
He lines up to bite me. His head is up, neck cocked, body in a position to fling his head forward at the target. I’m just outside of range, and he knows it. Note the tongue flicking out. He knows who and what I am, and he isn’t very happy with the information he's getting, and it's going to get worse from him.
Bert closes in on the snake from behind. This is pure pack tactics at their very best. If the snake lunges at me, Bert is going to nail him.
In the photo below look closely at Bert's face. He's got one eye on the snake and one eye on me. This is a mistake.
The photo below shows the aftermath. Bert reacts to the sound of the camera, flinches, and then realizes it wasn't the snake, he comes back in on the snake, who isn't distrcted, and the snake makes Bert pay. Note the mutt hair in the snake's mouth. The snake realizes now that Bert has an advantage; thick fur around his neck. The snake has no chance of biting through that. If he can't nail Bert on the nose, Bert will kill him outright without anything to fear.
Look closely at Bert's body posture. He isn't trying to kill the snake. His ears are up, his nose is up, and he's pointed away from the snake. Bert, at this point, is more curious than killer. The snake is all business. Bert has rattled his cage, and Bert knows it. The failed attack shakes the snake's confidence, and bolsters Bert's working knowledge of this species of snake. This isn't Bert's first rat snake.
Bert allows the snake some room to run, and the snake does just that.
Bert makes sure the snake know full well that he was within inches of being torn to bits.
It's a power play, the big dog on the block letting everyone else know that Bert is the top predator in the woods.
No one, not the snake, certainly not Bert, nor I, was injured in any way during this shoot.
The snake was in fact a Grey Rat Snake, a species with which I have decades of experience.
It appeared to be an adult male, very healthy, and very knowledgable about how to deal with dogs.