Last evening, my wife and I took a walk at the Forum Nature Area, in southwest Columbia. Stretching along the floodplain of Hinkson Creek, this refuge is a pleasing mix of restored prairie, riparian woodlands and seasonal wetlands. On this warm, breezy evening, the frenzied song of cricket frogs echoed through the valley and a pair of barred owls, half a mile apart, called to one another from the creekside forest. Out on the grasslands, a trio of deer browsed in the shadows while bluebirds and tree swallows guarded their nest boxes.
Approaching the west end of the preserve, I noticed a movement in the shallows. We stopped to watch as the tail end of a large black snake writhed about in the water, its head hidden in the marsh grass. I initially thought it had trapped a frog or small mammal against the shoreline but, as its body went limp on the surface, it soon became apparent that the snake was losing this battle. My next thought: a snapping turtle had caught the snake. Sure enough, after a few more spasms from the victim, the monstrous head of a snapper emerged from the lake, the body of the snake protruding from its jaws.
Completing the trail loop, we passed the usually mix of families, couples and dog walkers, all enjoying the pleasant evening. Lost in their conversation and duties, few seemed to notice the abundant wildlife in their midst and none would likely see the remnants of the death struggle. By then, the snapper had towed its prize to the muddy bottom and was chomping away at its carcass. Nature is not always pretty.