Our project manager at Chickasawhay Conservation Bank in Mississippi, John McGuire, is also pretty handy with a camera. He was excited late this spring, however, when he captured something notoriously elusive with his lens.
The Eastern Coach Whip is one of the largest (and thought to be the fastest) snakes in North America. Its natural color is black-to-creme. Can you see why that’s advantageous? In a longleaf pine habitat, where fire is a normal element, this snake must be able to hunt; though non-venomous, it is also not a constrictor and, instead, relies on speed to grab its prey undetected. John suspects this snake had probably just eaten (it does look a bit porky at the black-to-creme line) and was doing its best to camouflage while its food digested. The Coach Whip is opportunistic and feeds primarily on insects, small mammals and birds, and occasionally other snakes and reptiles.
It also uses gopher tortoise burrows. We like images like this. They’re very gratifying from a pure “lucky moment” perspective but also validate the health of the restored habitat.