The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently uploaded a strange picture to one of its Twitter accounts: what appears to be a boa constrictor wrapped around a coyote. The photo was reportedly taken by William James, who encountered the battle between the two predators on Tuesday in the Big Cypress National Preserve. According to Local 10 News, James, his wife, and their young daughter stopped at a rest area near Mile Marker 62 when they heard snarling and barking off a nearby trail.

“I only got one picture,” James told the Miami Herald. “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a wild animal, but you’re lucky if you have only a moment.”

An experienced hiker, James said he initially thought the snake was a Burmese python, an invasive species that has been causing no small amount of trouble for Florida wildlife. However, experts claim the snake in the photo actually appeared to be a boa constrictor, another non-native species that has become established in south Florida.

Either way, this was a once-in-a-lifetime encounter, right? Not so fast, say skeptics. The photo of the coyote and snake embroiled in combat was uploaded online and quickly went viral. It also generated a fierce debate over whether the image had been altered. Boa constrictors are known for their nondiscriminatory diets—they will eat anything that moves—but experts say coyotes are not usually on the menu. There is also no established population of boa constrictors in the area where James claimed to have taken the picture.

A spokesperson from the FWC threw further doubt on the incident by saying the photo appears to have been altered.

Others believe the picture may be real. There is a precedent for Burmese pythons attacking coyotes, so it is not too far of a stretch to imagine that boa constrictors may also prey on the species. On the other hand, some speculate that the fight may have started after the coyote provoked the snake. Coyotes are known to hunt snakes, but not anything close to the size of a boa constrictor.

James said the fight ended after the coyote started biting the snake, which slithered off into the bushes. The coyote walked away with a limp.

What do you think?

Image from Twitter

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