The Hunter and the Prey

The Hunter and the Prey


SSSSSS had been asleep for the last six weeks, ever since he had captured that fat rabbit. But now his sluggishness was over, and he was getting hungry again. The night had been cold, so, in the early dawn of what would be a warm day, he left his nest, crawled to the exit of his burrow and proceeded cautiously to taste the air for food or foe, before slithering to his favorite warming-up rock. Sensing neither in proximity, he began to travel his hunting ground, his body registering the vibrations the hoofed herd made as it moved towards the water hole in the early dawn. He crept carefully along a fallen log, hoping to fall on a quick snack, but knowing quite well he stood little chance of catching anything because of the slow reflexes induced by his low body temperature. If anything, he was quite vulnerable in his current condition.

He made his way to the protruding piece of rock and crawled under a ledge so as to be heated from the rock's heat while not being exposed to probing eyes. He curled up his long body, making sure the sun's reflection on the rock hit him while still hiding in the shade. He wanted to heat up, not cook!

An hour or so after dusk, he felt well warmed up, having basked in the ledge's shelter for the day, and hunger was getting a little more than slightly bothersome. He proceeded to leave the protection of the ledge after again tasting the air for any danger. He crawled down the rock and proceeded to slowly cross the field of high grass in front of the hoofed herd. It was dangerous, but much less so than going behind them, where the grass had been flattened by the herd's passage. Anyway, rat burrows behind the herd had their entrances collapsed and the rats were probably huddling in their nests, waiting for the herd to move on before digging themselves out of their collapsed galleries. Going in their midst would be suicide; they would panic and he would likely have little or no chance of escaping their stampede. At least, by staying far ahead, and keeping close to a rock or a fallen tree, he had some chance of finding cover in time if they were suddenly on the move.

Traveling from cover to cover, he felt the warmth of the ground under him as he made his way to the edge of the hill where he had caught his last meal, and he started to hunt. The tall grass offered just enough cover against being seen from above. Finally he sensed - smelled - a prey, a big fat rat. He decided that well, better that than risk not eating, so he slowly crept toward his prey. His thermal sensors told him the rat was near, and he could taste the fear emanating from the rodent. Fortunately for SSSSSS, it was too busy foraging to actually see him getting closer.

SSSSSS took a striking pose, his head about 18 inches above ground, and he began to sway like the tall grass, waiting for the rat to come within range of his venomous fangs. He watched, carefully, as the rodent looked around for food, oblivious of his impending demise. The rat sensed something was wrong, because even the crickets went silent around him, as if they knew tragedy was about to strike. He looked around, but failed to notice the snake, whose body movements mimicked so closely the grasses' oscillations that he seemed only to be a thicker plant sticking out of the grass. That even gave the idea to the rat that maybe there would be some nice seeds hidden under there!

The rat moved towards SSSSSS and lowered himself on all fours to look for seeds. That had been the moment the rattlesnake had been waiting for. It struck fast at the rat, opening its mouth wide to inject the maximum venom into its prey. But just as SSSSSS was going to reach the rat and clamp his teeth into it, SSSSSS felt an excruciating pain and was pulled off the ground by an owl that had dived on him from behind, closing its talons just behind SSSSSS' head, thus preventing him from turning around and taking a defensive bite. SSSSSS had lived, and his body dangled limp from the owl's claws as it was carried to the nest. Remember, little pups, the lesson of this story: However powerful the predator, the moment it forgets it is also a prey is the day it will meet its doom.