Photographer captures snake eel bursting through heron’s stomach

Posted by Storm Simpson on 6 November 2020

An amateur photographer captured a fascinating sight at a nature reserve in Maryland in the United States. Sam Davis, a 58-year-old engineer, was taking photos of the wildlife in the reserve when he saw a snake eel hanging out of a hole in a heron’s stomach.

‘I went to the refuge to photograph foxes and eagles and whatever else may be interesting,’ explained Davis, according to Lad Bible.

‘Initially, I thought the heron was bitten on the neck by a snake or eel. When I got home and edited the photos I could see it was an eel that was coming through his neck. I could see his eyes and he was still alive.’  Davis managed to capture this moment on camera.


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An amateur wildlife photographer caught the shocking moment an eel made a desperate bid for freedom… by burrowing its way out of a heron’s stomach 🤢🤢 ⁠ ⁠ Link in bio for more (grim) details about the photos.

A post shared by LADbible (@ladbible) on

Snake eels have a hard-pointed tail tip, which is mostly used for digging but they also use it to burst through the stomach walls of predators when they are eaten alive, according to The Guardian. These eels live most of their lives burrowed in the soft sand on the ocean floor, therefore, the predators in question are usually fish and quite often the stomach piercing does not save their lives, as they cannot burrow through a fish’s hard ribcage.

‘Most animals burrow head-first, but snake eels use their hardtail tip to dig straight into the soft sea substrate. When they are swallowed and take exception to that they just use that same mechanism to burst straight out through the stomach wall,’ Jeff Johnson, an ichthyologist at the Queensland Museum, told The Guardian.

This escape move is nearly always fatal for the eel, but large birds may not even notice their stomach being ruptured.

It is not clear how long the heron remained alive after the photograph was taken — Davis says that there were two eagles who noticed the distressed bird and a nearby fox was paying attention too.

‘There were two young eagles that saw the heron’s predicament and were following him around, I assumed they sensed a meal,’ he said. The fox split its attention between the two species of bird, following the heron while keeping an eye on the eagles.

Davis said that this remarkable photograph surprised the wildlife experts that he showed it to.

‘The wildlife refuge said they have never seen anything like that before. It’s kind of a morbid photo.’

Picture: Flickr / Nick Goodrum


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