Patch-nosed Snake Digs for Her Dinner

This little piggy went to Muleshoe…

Have you ever watched a whiptail lizard run from you at lightning speed and wondered how anything ever manages to catch and eat them? Well, I’m about to tell you.

Western Patch-nosed Snake (Salvadora hexalepis)
Western Patch-nosed Snake (Salvadora hexalepis)

On my way home from work, I noticed a Western Patch-nosed Snake stretched out in the bare soil next to the walking path. She immediately continued on her way, stopping to poke her head in some burrows. Not having anything better to do, I sat down to watch her since she seemed unconcerned with my presence.

Western Patch-nosed Snake poking her head into a hole
Western Patch-nosed Snake poking her head into a hole.
Western Patch-nosed Snake poking her head into a hole
Western Patch-nosed Snake poking her head into a hole

Suddenly she made a quick, violent thrust forward into the burrow. Did she catch something?

She quickly pulled out empty-handed, or rather empty-mouthed. She tried an adjacent hole, immediately withdrawing with nothing, then on to the next hole.

SUCCESS!

She pulled out this time with a wiggling whiptail lizard. She barely had it by a foot, but was going for it anyway. As she pulled the lizard free of the burrow, she wrapped herself around it and began to kill her prey by constricting.

Western Patch-nosed Snake killing a whiptail lizard by constriction.
Western Patch-nosed Snake killing a whiptail lizard by constriction.

This was pretty difficult to watch; I love snakes, but I like lizards too. As the croc-hunter used to say though, “it’s nature’s way!” So the Patch-nosed got to finish her meal.

Western Patch-nosed Snake swallowing a whiptail lizard.
Western Patch-nosed Snake swallowing a whiptail lizard.
Western Patch-nosed Snake swallowing a whiptail lizard.
Western Patch-nosed Snake swallowing a whiptail lizard.

After she had swallowed, she wiped her face in the dirt, yawned, and began fishing around in the burrows again. Her behavior was identical to what she was doing when hunting the lizard.

Surely, she CANNOT be hunting for another lizard?!? That was a big meal for her, she can’t POSSIBLY hold another.

Or can she?

Western Patch-nosed Snake poking her head into a hole
Western Patch-nosed Snake poking her head into a hole

Within a minute she pulled another whiptail lizard from an adjacent burrow! She had this one, properly, by the head, so it was over much faster.

Western Patch-nosed Snake killing a whiptail lizard by constriction.
Western Patch-nosed Snake killing a whiptail lizard by constriction.
Western Patch-nosed Snake swallowing a whiptail lizard.
Western Patch-nosed Snake swallowing a whiptail lizard.

Now she was finally done eating. The Patch-nosed slowly crawled up the hill to catch the last bit of sun.