Animal Dilemmas – Owl Snake
The Snake zigzagged among the rocks as far as its muscles would carry it. At last it reached a burrow underneath a lonely tree between the forest and the start of a giants’ town. It was dusk and the Snake used its last drops of energy to crawl in. Its muscles were aching, strings of them had snapped during the fight with the Eagle. Its blood was running colder than usual and its mind was hazy. Its venom was the only intact subsystem left it its body. A system powerful but useless in the current crisis. So the Snake promptly dosed off.
Inside its head the forces of good and evil fought on the border of life and death. Nature was calculating a mathematical equation of energy, blood temperature and sleep. Deriving the most probable outcome for the Snake. Was all that was left on one side of the equation going to match the fight to heal the wounds? And was there a surplus large enough to reawaken the Snake?
While nature was running its course, outside night had settled. The creatures accustomed to the shadows were out and about searching for pieces of solace. The lonely tree was located a stone throw away from some of the wealthiest dry storage barns in the giants’ town. So all the hungry and desperate forest mice took the risk of crossing the open field so they can steal a piece of grain.
The exodus of mice was so large that predators were well aware of it as a safe place to feed. They often sent their young unexperienced brats to learn the facts of life on their own in this prey rife field. That was the case with a young owl. It stood still on a lonely firm branch. The same branch its father and its grandfather had stood on and had learned to hunt.
The Owl hesitated for a while calculating its flight down. There was several mice in the open at all times. The Owl stood still waiting for one to get close to the tree and dove down. The moment it dove, the Mouse vanished from sight. The Owl tasted the dust on its tongue as it landed and flew back up on its branch.
Significant time had to pass for the mice to consider it safe to come out again. The Owl stood stiff and stared down at where its first victim vanished. But the Mouse never emerged. The bird of prey chose another rodent. It waited for it to come close to the tree and dove to earth just like before. But just like before the mouse vanished just in time and the Owl returned to its watch tower empty handed.
The same exercise repeated several times. The Owl was loosing patience. The last time before it flew up it stomped the ground in anger and danced in ritual around the tree several times. In one of its circles of the tree it noticed the burrow. Inside all the mice that escaped its claws found certain death in the jaws of the Snake.
The first two mice were already half digested in the Snake’s stomach and gave it a fresh wave of energy. The last few that entered the burrow were strangled and laid on the burrow floor. The Snake was recovering fast and had all the means to do so. Unknowingly the Owl had lured the mice to the Snake’s mouth. It had used a lot of its energy to dove down and fly up only to feed the snake and help it regain strength.
The Owl was not aware of this elaborate mechanics of nature. It perched back on the branch and devised a new hunting trajectory. The Snake was not aware of its salvation and after it recovered it stayed as vicious as ever.
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photograph by William Warby