The toad was grabbed by the head.
The toad didn't stand a chance. It couldn't, surely. Impaled on the snake's fangs, its body clenched tightly between the reptile's jaws, the game looked up for the unlucky amphibian. The toad's gray brown coloring, while offering effective camouflage as it navigated through the roots of a tree, was no match for the speed and ground level awareness of the southern black racer. The black racer had struck without mercy as the toad tried in vain to evade its offensive. Rarely is the cold reality of predation embodied more perfectly than in the killing instincts of a snake.
The black racer snake grabs the toad as it tries to get away.
Bitten with great force and grabbed by its head, the toad appears to have lost the skirmish before it has even begun. 'Eaten alive' might be the grim words engraved on its tiny tombstone.
The toad's head is in the snakes mouth while he is trying to hold on to the tree.
But the toad is made of tougher stuff than you might expect. For one thing, it too has a strong grip, although its power lies less in its jaws than its limbs – which together with its body are stretched to the limit.
The toad is still trying to hold on
Elongated like a piece of elastic, the toad tries with all its might to hold on to a tree, the base of which the black racer so easily scaled. For the toad, these gnarled roots may yet provide salvation...
The toad is brought down to the ground and his whole head is inside the snake's mouth.
Or not. With gravity on the black racer's side, the toad is brought crashing to the ground. Its entire head is now stuck fast within the snake's mouth. A grisly view into the jaws of death.
Looking into the stomach of death.
Half swallowed, we again wonder how it is the toad has not already given up the struggle. Southern black racers routinely eat toads and other similar sized animals literally for breakfast.
The snake has a firm grip on the toad.
The toad's flattened body bulges under the pressure of the black racer's deadly grip, its throat puffing up with air far beyond its normal capacity. Will this poor creature burst under the strain?
The snake opens his mouth to try and move the toad further down.
The snake makes another move in this game of life and death, opening its jaws in an effort to shift the toad further down inside its body, where its acidic stomach juices can do their work.
The snake clamps down a little further down the body but the toad's hands try to get it off.
But then the toad makes a sudden counter offensive. As the black racer clamps down further on the toad's body, the the toad uses its hands to try and free itself from the saliva soaked death trap.
The toad's legs try pushing.
The struggle becomes a blur of motion as the toad battles back, its legs flailing in a grotesque dance as they press frantically against the predator with which it is locked in mortal combat.
Toad almost completely devoured.
Yet the toad's efforts are in vain. The black racer again looks to engulf its prey in its jaws. The toad is almost completely devoured, one limb limp, another resting listlessly on its attacker's head.
Snake opens its mouth again for a better grip.
The snake opens its mouth for a better grip, saliva dripping from its upper jaw. A constrictor snake, the black racer tends to suffocate or crush its victims into the ground when attacking.
Snake pulling the toad a little further away (probably I'm bothering it).
Perhaps this toad was too bulky to be subdued in this way; its mass is certainly too great for the black racer to embrace it in its coils – a tactic less seldom used by this native to the southeastern United States.
The full length of the snake with the toad in its mouth.
As the black racer begins to pull its prize away, we see the full length of the snake in all its glory. Many times larger than the toad, one might expect it to be able to overpower its victim with ease.
Snake opens his mouth and you can see the full head of the toad.
The snake again opens its maw, the oral cavity visible in all its sickly detail with the toad's head still lodged inside. It's lucky for the toad the black racer is non-venomous or it may well have been dead long ago.
Snake dragging toad away.
Snapping the trap shut once more, the black racer drags its hapless victim away. Yet perhaps all is not lost, for the toad may just have an escape plan to fall back on. And so it proves...
While it was being dragged away, the toad got away and the snake caught it by its rear end.
As the black racer slithers away with its meal, the toad suddenly breaks free and manages to get away. The snake, however, is not so easily thwarted and swiftly catches the toad by its rear end.
Gee, that must hurt!
Although it's been attacked from all angles, at least the toad's head is no longer incarcerated inside the snake's mouth. Maybe it's too large for the snake – but has this fact saved its warty hide?
Toad trying to hold on to something.
Once more the toad uses its muscle power in a bid to hold on to something – even if its lifeline is just a twig – and so shake its assailant free. A bloody wound in the toad's limb is clear to see...
Toad desperately trying to hold on.
...But so too is its determination to survive. As it desperately tries to hold on, prone among the leaves strewn along the ground, it almost look as though it might again evade the clutches of its voracious captor.
Snake desperately trying to eat toad.
Alas the balance swings back in favor of the black racer – so named because of its lightning quick speed when hunting or threatened – as the snake once more does everything it can to gobble the toad whole.
Talk about breathing down your neck...
Death again appears to be breathing down the neck of the unfortunate amphibian, with the snake refusing to let go. Attempting to eat its prey prior to pinning and crushing it is not the black racer's habit...
I'm not sure what that snake is tasting right now - but it can't be good.
Maybe this lack of strategy on the part of the snake is what is causing it difficulties. More certain is that with the toad in its terrified state, the black racer is now tasting something far from pleasant.
The snake continues to hold.
As it continues to grip tightly onto its victim's rump, we might reflect on the fact that southern black racers, despite their lack of venom, are snakes that do not take kindly to human contact.
The toad is holding on to some tree roots.
"Even after months in captivity," states Wikipedia, they "will typically strike and flail wildly every time they are handled," and their bite, although not toxic, is exceedingly painful nonetheless.
Hang on, Kermit.
Equally at home in water or on land, the black racer will usually try to flee unless trapped, although it has been known to turn and attack humans and other animals it perceives as a threat.
Kermit, hold on....
But back to the action. As the toad continues to hold on to anything within reach, we can only marvel at the tenacity possessed of both of these cold-blooded creatures, each refusing to surrender.
Finally the snake gives up.
Yet, at long last, it is the snake's will that breaks first. Either that, or its strength that fails it. The black racer admits defeat, handing victory to the toad following its fight for survival in the face of imminent death.
After almost an hour of trying to eat the big toad it is trying to get its mouth back together.
After a struggle that has lasted for almost an hour, the sorry snake thrashes around in an effort to readjust its jaws, which have been pushed to the limit by the effort of trying to devour the toad.
The snake has been thrashing around trying to readjust his jaws.
With its mouth apparently back in one piece, the southern black racer slinks away – beaten – its scaly, jet black flank disappearing among the decomposing matter of the forest floor...
After all that the toad was still alive and managed to get away.
Which leaves the toad, triumphant, and very much alive. The warty one makes good its escape. Having seen the face of death in the shape of a snake's head, it roams free, scarred but not broken, to live another day.
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