A fire department in Montana battled a 40-acre blaze over the course of an afternoon, later finding it was a hawk that had ignited the fire. (Warning: The photos below are graphic.)
The Black Eagle Fire Department responded to a call of a large fire burning in an open field, according to the Great Falls Tribune. As multiple units arrived at the scene and the fire was slowly knocked down, firefighters began looking for the source of the fire.
As it turned out, a hawk had run into a power line, likely causing the sparks that ignited the dry brush below. Incredibly, the dead hawk still had a snake in its talons.
David Lee, acting assistant chief of the Black Eagle Fire Department, noted that it's not uncommon for squirrels and birds to cause fires, but a bird with dinner in its claws is out of the ordinary.
Lee said the fire was likely caused after both the snake and hawk touched two different power lines, reports Newsweek.
"It was just awesome," said firefighter Kyra Vanisko, who took a photo of the dead bird and snake, which were found underneath a power line. "I wasn't expecting to find a hawk with a snake in its claws still."
Vanisko couldn't identify the species of the hawk due to its charred condition, but the image shows it was roughly the size of a house cat. The bull snake was about 1 foot long.
"We had been chasing that 40-acre grass fire for a while," Vanisko told Newsweek. "We had no idea what caused the fire, so finding the cause by accident was a pleasant surprise."
Animals, particularly birds, have been responsible for several power outages in recent years, said Butch Larcombe, a spokesperson from NorthWestern Energy, which services parts of Montana.
"I have dealt with outages caused by squirrels, beavers, geese, raptors and even snakes," Larcombe said. "But this is my first experience with a hawk-snake combination."
Larcombe remembered a power outage in Helena, Montana, that may have resulted after a deer fawn was found trapped in power lines. He suspected an eagle swooped the fawn from the ground and then dropped it on the power lines, which caused a fire.
Several trucks from multiple fire departments responded to this most recent call, battling the fire before it had the opportunity to spread further.
"It was running pretty good. It was spreading," Lee said. “We got it stopped before it crossed the coulee and got into stubble."