Two rat snakes -- estimated at 6 to 7 feet long -- were found tangled in knots this week during what reptile experts describe as a rarely witnessed mating season battle.
Carolina Waterfowl Rescue posted video of the May 21 fight on Facebook, showing the writhing snakes twirling and tumbling.
The fight lasted several minutes and is believed to have started when the two males crossed paths while following pheromones released by a female, the agency told the Charlotte Observer. Neither snake was injured in the struggle, agency officials said.
“The video is awesome and we were lucky to get it,” said Keenan Scott Freitas, a reptile rehabilitator at Carolina Waterfowl Rescue, a nonprofit animal rescue agency near Charlotte.
“You don’t get to see that in the wild too often. I was shocked and amazed at the same time by it. It’s usually the type of thing you only see on National Geographic. That’s because they (rat snakes) are terrified of humans and usually flee when they see one. They don’t stick around and continue to fight.”
The video has been viewed nearly 2,000 times in the past few days.
Rat snakes, also known as black snakes, are nonvenomous constrictors (squeezing their prey) and considered one of the state’s “most familiar and conspicuous reptiles,” according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “They mate in late May, early June,” the commission’s website says.
They are also one of the state’s “longest snakes,” known to grow to 6 feet, the commission says.
However, the two found fighting at the Carolina Waterfowl have exceeded that length to nearly 7 feet under the protection of the agency’s staff, Freitas said.
Snakes of all kind, including venomous copperheads, are regularly treated by the agency’s staff, for issues ranging from swallowing golf balls to getting run over by cars. Freitas says about 100 snakes a year are among the nearly 8,000 animals treated by Carolina Waterfowl.
The agency offers aid to all types of animals and has gotten national attention for saving unusual pets that needed a new home.
In December, a bonded donkey and emu from the shelter were adopted by “Walking Dead” star Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and in February, People magazine covered the site’s work to save a calf rescued from someone’s bathroom.
Freitas says it’s unclear if the two fighting snakes are former patients or just snakes that staked a claim to the territory.
“They just roam around,” he said. “They are completely wild and go where they want. Our staff just leaves them alone. They have been here for years.”