These photos were taken in Saint Gabriel, Louisiana by Lisa Head. The snake was about six feet up in a 15-20 foot oak tree. Not sure what kind of snake it is. It is eating a mockingbird. Lisa said she thought the mother mockingbird was going to kill herself throwing her body at the snake. Lisa noted "I really wish I hadn't seen this, but if it will advocate for predator guards, at least some good will come of it!"
Snakes are common nest predators in many areas, especially in the South and in Texas, and where mice are common. In Tennessee, snakes may account for about 1/3 of nest predation (Laskey 1946.) Snakes typically leave the nest intact, but usually all of the eggs are nestlings are suddenly gone. They may also take an incubating female. Snake feces may be found inside the box. Sometimes there is no doubt when the box is opened and the snake is still inside. For that reason, use caution when opening and checking boxes in snake territory, and do not put your hand where you can not see - use a telescoping mirror instead.
The best way to keep a pole-mounted nestbox from turning into a Happy Meal for a snake is to use see a stove pipe baffle/Kingston Guard or Krueger Snake Trap, or a five foot length of 4" PVC sitting in a one foot diameter circle of clean sand. Keep grass and brush trimmed around pole.
As much as predation may disturb us, native snakes should not be killed. They are an important part of the ecosystem. Instead, do your best to protect nesting birds you invite to use your boxes by putting effective baffles on them.
You cannot begin to preserve any species of animal unless you preserve the habitat in which it dwells. Disturb or destroy that habitat and you will exterminate the species as surely as if you had shot it. So conservation means that you have to preserve forest and grassland, river and lake, even the sea itself. This is vital not only for the preservation of animal life generally, but for the future existence of man himself—a point that seems to escape many people.
-Gerald Durrell, The Nature Conservancy
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