Jackal vs snake by Trace Fick

Black-backed jackals are opportunistic feeders, but this one displayed more than a little determination in taking on a snake.

How often do you encounter a black-backed jackal in a gripping fight with a snake often confused with the venomous Cape cobra? When Trace Fick and husband Malcolm visited the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, they never expected this once-in-a-lifetime sighting.

“I had booked a nine-night trip starting at Urikaruus Wilderness Camp, visiting Nossob, Grootkolk and finally Kieliekrankie Wilderness Camp,” Trace says. “We were making our way south for our last night, when we came across the jackal some 10km from Nossob.

“At first glance the jackal seemed rather mangy and thin, and looked quite unhappy. It was then that I saw the coiled-up snake and the dramatic sequence of events began to unfold.”

At this stage Trace thought the snake was a Cape cobra, which seemed to be feigning death. Herpetologist Johan Marais has identified the snake as a mole snake, often mistaken for a Cape cobra.

“The jackal was not deceived by the snake and sank its teeth into it. Although the snake did everything in its power to get away, the jackal was having none of it. An action-packed battle ensued – a duel to the death that lasted almost three quarters of an hour.” After crushing the snake’s head, the jackal emerged victorious.

Jackal eats snake-Kgalagadi-Trace Fick-2

Looking thin and hungry, the jackal attempts to bite into the mole snake.

Jackal eats snake-Kgalagadi-Trace Fick-3

The jackal seems taken aback and drops the snake even after puncturing its skin.

Jackal eats snake-Kgalagadi-Trace Fick-4

Determined to secure a meal, the jackal picks the snake up yet again. Now highly defensive, the snake wraps itself around the jackal’s muzzle.

The jackal then devoured the entire snake – proof that hunger is the best sauce! “We were so close to the drama that we could even hear the noise of the snake’s bones being crushed as the jackal swallowed it inch by inch. It was one very satisfied jackal customer at the end.”

Jackal eats snake-Kgalagadi-Trace Fick-5

But the jackal has made up its mind and goes in for another bite. This time striking the snake’s head.

Jackal eats snake-Kgalagadi-Trace Fick-6

Having finally fatally injured its prey, the jackal begins to eat the snake – biting and crunching into it.

Jackal eats snake-Kgalagadi-Trace Fick-7

Jackal eats snake-Kgalagadi-Trace Fick-8

Still not dead, the mole snake gets a hold of the jackal’s front leg.

Trace and Malcolm, who live in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal, adore spending time in the bush and visit game parks across South Africa at least five to six times a year. “The Kgalagadi is a very special place. It is miles and miles of what seems to be nothingness and then you come across a sighting like this! In the six years that we have been going to the Kgalagadi we have had amazing sightings and experiences. Take your time and watch, it will happen; just make sure that your camera is ready.”

Trace took all the images with a Nikon D90 and Nikkor 18-300mm lens.

Jackal eats snake-Kgalagadi-Trace Fick-9

Jackal 1 – Mole snake 0: the jackal tears the snake’s intestines out.

Jackal eats snake-Kgalagadi-Trace Fick-10

A meal well deserved and the jackal consumes the entire snake.

Mole snakes: quick facts

  • They are known to be bad-tempered and will bite readily and repeatedly.
  • During breeding season in the summer months males often attack each other causing gaping wounds.
  • Female mole snakes can produce up to 95 young.
  • Individuals have been known to exceed two metres in length.

Source: What’s That Reptile? A Starter’s Guide to Reptiles in Southern Africa By Johan Marais. 2011. Struik Nature. R230.

Subscribe to the Wild newsletter

* indicates required