Red-tailed Hawk/Snake Interaction

Desilvis, Denis J denis.j.desilvis at
Mon Aug 12 07:55:53 PDT 2002

Although I've seen Red-tailed Hawks carrying snakes before, on Friday
(8/9/02) I actually saw a hawk "take" a snake. Although I was about 50 yards
away, given the location, I believe it was a garter snake. The location was
actually the incredible part: right next to the 1st green at the Heron Links
(part of Willow Run) golf course in Redmond (just to the east of Willows

The 1st hole is about 90 yards (it's a par 3 course). I saw the (adult) hawk
standing at the back of the green--occasionally it would "hop" and strike at
something on the ground--the something was a snake. One of the golfers
playing the hole hit a ball just beyond the hawk. He then walked behind the
green, saw the hawk, but didn't try to chase it or otherwise interact with
it; however, his ball was within 10 yards of it. He attempted to play the
shot, and didn't do well: his ball was now very close to the bird. Even when
he walked to within 5 yards, the hawk didn't move--but it did spread its
wings and "cover" the snake, and did look at the golfer. The man hit his
ball onto the green, and he and his partner eventually completed the hole.

All the while, the hawk was either grasping the snake, releasing it (or it
was escaping), or attempting to grasp it. (Within 80 yards of the bird were
approximately 20 people.) Finally, the hawk was disturbed by two golfers
that came up from behind. It flew with the snake to a young Douglas-fir
about 25 yards away, which was right next to the 2nd tee. (The landing was
interesting because the top of the tree was very flexible, and the hawk bent
the top quite a bit.) The hawk struck at the snake a few times, sat on the
tree for about 5 minutes, then flew off to a large cottonwood to the south
(about 250 yards away), at which point I lost sight of it.

Within 10 minutes, I heard a hawk call, and saw a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk
fly to the same cottonwood tree--calling several times--but lost sight of it
when it flew behind the tree crown.

I've seen red tails capture prey on golf courses several times. Once while I
was on a tee-box, a juvenile hawk "crashed" through the understory about 25
yards behind me to capture and eat what looked like a shrew. Another time,
while on a golf course in Bellevue, I saw an adult hawk "crash" through part
of the crown of a pine tree to capture and fly away with what appeared to be
a weasel.

The snake capture by the Red-tailed Hawk, and the proximity to people while
doing it, was a first for me.

Denis J. DeSilvis
denis.j.desilvis at

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