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  • Writer's pictureIsaac yelchin

The King

Slithering through wet grass, his nictitating membrane closes over his eye to protect from the dew drop that’s landed on his scaly head. His tongue flicks and the smells of the morning are transported on his forked tongue to the roof of his mouth. There lies his Jacobson’s organ which translates those scent particles into something he can understand.

A Closeup look at the baby kingsnake in the creek!

He smells another snake. Not just any snake - it’s a rattlesnake. Any of us would back off, as rattlesnakes can be deadly. However, our hero, our king, heads toward the scent of rattlesnakes. His shiny black and white banded body mesmerizes as it glides over the small cobbles and leaves dotting the creek’s edge.

He increases his speed as the image of the rattlesnake comes into view. Dirt flashes from his tail as he leaps in a springy way only a snake can. The rattlesnake shakes its tail and hisses letting out a frightening crescendo. Almost all other animals with any sense would turn tails and flee.

However, our hero, our king snake protagonist, flies at the hissing rattling beast, at full pelt. With the quickness of an arrow released from the bow of a grizzled old hunter, the rattlesnake whips his thick head around. His jaws open wide and extend his two long fangs, and a drop of venom accumulates on the left fangs point.

The king snake crashes into the enemy and through the cloud of dust and scales the rattlesnake's fangs find a home. The long fangs filled with deadly venom have latched into the side of the kingsnake. Still grappling, the rattlesnake deposits its venom into the kingsnake in its final stand.

Will our hero survive? Rattlesnake venom has killed thousands of humans, just one bite is deadly. The kingsnake writhes in the pain from the bite, however, doesn’t release his tight grip on the rattlesnake. In fact, the rattlesnake had given up grappling and changed position to land his deadly bite on the kingsnake. This opened up a moment for the kingsnake to get a tighter hold on the rattlesnake and begin squeezing even tighter.

Why won’t the kingsnake stop? Filled with the deadly venom of the rattlesnake the kingsnake continues strangling and constricting. The venom seems to have no effect and soon, the life is squeezed out of the rattlesnake, and at last, he lies limp in the coils of the kingsnake. Victorious, our king unhinges his jaw, opens wide, and proceeds to eat the rattlesnake headfirst. Without teeth, the kingsnake cannot chew, so in a long drawn out brutal series of gulps he sucks the rattlesnake down.

The fearsome beast that is the kingsnake is unmatched in the world of snakes. Immune to rattlesnake venom, it turns something feared by all men into Sunday brunch.

All photos were taken by Isaac Yelchin and Emlyn Ellerby

Isaac Yelchin is foremost a herpetologist. He studies lizards, frogs, newts, and the like. Specifically, he spends all day and night thinking about what it is like to be an animal. What are the animals thinking about? What is their perspective? When he should be working, he sits and stares at his pet lizard asking himself these questions

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