WPY 2018

Photograph Details

Winner 2018

Behaviours Amphibians and Reptiles

David Herasimtschuk, USA


Clamped in the jaws of a hungry hellbender salamander, things were not looking good for the northern water snake. But when its attacker repositioned its bite, the snake pushed free and escaped. David was thrilled to catch a battle between these two unlikely foes. ‘I’ve seen hellbenders display an array of behaviours, but this was by far the most remarkable,’ he says.

Hellbenders are the largest salamanders in the USA and are among the most endangered. Usually they hunt for small prey, such as crayfish, insects and eggs, so a northern water snake is an unexpected choice. These amphibians use suction to secure their prey before using their teeth – a method unlikely to subdue a wriggling snake.

Technical specification

Sony a7R II + 28mm f2 lens + Nauticam WWL-1 lens; 1/60 sec at f13; ISO 1250; Nauticam housing; Inon Z-240 strobe

Tellico River, Tennessee, USA : latitude 35.355602, longitude -84.26663 
Tellico River, Tennessee, USA : latitude 35.355602, longitude -84.26663

Tellico River, Tennessee, USA

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David Herasimtschuk

David Herasimtschuk, USA

David's passion lies in producing imagery that helps foster an appreciation for the life in rivers and streams. By working with the non-profit Freshwaters Illustrated, he is able to create images that have the power to capture the imagination and educate audiences about the importance of keeping their rivers clean and healthy.

  • In the eye of a tapir
  • The Spring Ball
  • Head-strong hellbenders
  • Spawn rivals