Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Experts said a viral clip appearing to show a snake wearing a fish head like a mask likely resulted from the serpent's mealtime accident.
A short clip posted in animated GIF form that went viral this week on Reddit shows a fish swimming with what appears to be the head of a decapitated fish stuck on its own head like a mask.
Emily Taylor, Ph.D., the director of the Physiological Ecology of Reptiles Lab at California Polytechnic State University, said the snake was not responsible for beheading the fish.
"I can tell you that the snake definitely did not eat the rest of the fish. First, that fish it too big for the snake," she told Inverse. "Second, snakes don't take bites -- they eat their meals whole."
She said the serpent likely ended up in the unusual position while attempting to find out if the head was edible.
"The most likely scenario is that the snake sensed the dead fish using its ability to 'smell-taste' the water or air on the surface, and is investigating to see if it could eat it," she said.
Herpetologist Sam Sweet, Ph.D., a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said the reptile appears to be a garter snake and the fish appears to be a trout.
"Someone caught the fish and cleaned it, and threw the head back in the creek," he said in an email to Inverse. "The snake investigated the cut-off head, and may have found some loose bit of tissue (such as a gill) that it tried to eat but can't separate from the rest of the head."
He said the snake was likely eventually able to free itself from its predicament.
"It will probably give up and let go soon," he said.