Incredible Images Show Moment Baby Alligator Is Snatched by Hungry Heron

Even alligators are not always at the top of the food chain. At least, not in the case of one particular baby gator that was caught in the "chopstick" beak of a great blue heron.

Photographer Loukik Thakre snapped striking shots of the unfortunate gator on the banks of the Circle B Bar Reserve in Polk County, Florida, on Sunday.

"I had been waiting [for] two hours, watching the heron," Thakre told Newsweek. "[It] was quiet and sharp. He caught [it] in a second and flew."

Loukik Thakre Nature Photography
A photo of a blue heron with a baby alligator in its mouth taken by Loukik Thakre at the Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida on March 5, 2023. Loukik Thakre

Thakre said that the mother alligator chased the heron to rescue her baby, but could not run fast enough.

"I can feel the mommy gator pain," he said.

The great blue heron is the largest heron species in North America, with a wingspan of up to 6.6 feet, according to National Geographic. They can be found as far north as southeastern Alaska and as far south as the Caribbean, the National Audubon Society reports. The species is highly adaptable and thrives in all kinds of waters, from mangrove swamps to desert rivers.

To catch its prey, the bird relies on the element of surprise. They hunt by standing completely still in shallow water, or swimming very slowly, waiting for a fish or small reptile to swim by. Then, they strike.

Their enormous wingspan makes them very fast fliers, reaching speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, as estimated by National Geographic.

American alligators are quite fast too, reaching speeds of up to 20 miles per hour in the water, but, unfortunately, the mommy gator wasn't able to save her baby from the heron in Thakre's photos.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, baby alligators are vulnerable to a variety of different predators, including raccoons, otters, wading birds (like heron) and even fish. However, their most significant predators are larger alligators.

Loukik Thakre Nature Photography
Another photo of the heron with the baby alligator in its "chopstick" jaws taken by Loukik Thakre at the Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida on March 5, 2023. Loukik Thakre Nature Photography

"Large alligators are well known to eat smaller alligators," Coleman M. Sheehy III, from the Division of Herpetology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, previously told Newsweek. "However, the​ occurrence of this can vary quite a bit, partly due to what other food options are available and partly due to whether large gators have access to smaller gators."

Thakre's photo was part of a series of images called Chopsticks, featuring the herons of Circle B and their unfortunate prey.

"I like to take a picture where one animal [is] catching prey," Thakre said. "It feels sad but, in the end, it's nature's rule. Sometimes nature is not fair to everyone."

Update 3/8/23 10:09 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with another photograph of the heron and baby alligator taken by Loukik Thakre.