This hungry heron clearly got more than it bargained for after snatching a baby alligator from its nest.
The vulnerable reptile was grabbed by the large wading bird which then ran off with its lunch held in its beak.
But the brave bird was spotted by the alligator's irate mother, which reared up on its hind legs as it gave chase baring her fearsome teeth.
The protective beast hurtled after the frightened Great Blue Heron until it finally dropped its precious cargo on the grass.
The six-inch long baby then managed to scuttle back its nest at a wildlife reserve in Polk County, Florida, under the watchful eye of its mother.
Photographer Claudia Kuenkel, 46, captured the incredible moment.
She said: 'It was a pretty awesome sight. Luckily I was about 90ft away from the action so I wasn't worried about my own safety.
'The first thing I saw was the bird just standing there. It wasn't a big deal so I turned away, but the next thing I saw was this huge alligator running.
'Normally they just lie around in the sun and don't really move - I've never seen one like that.'
The heron does not appear to have had time to take off as it ran along the grass bank.
But it remained near the nest after dropping its lunch on the off-chance of another morsel.
Ms Kuenkel, from Florida, added: 'It actually wasn't until afterwards when I looked at my photos that I saw the baby alligator in the heron's beak and realised what had happened.
'I've never seen a heron eating an alligator baby like this, but I do know they're vulnerable to all kinds of predators when they're so small.
'The mothers are very protective and can be ferocious if anyone tries to harm their babies. Luckily this one had its mum looking out for it.'