That really bites: Severed snake head strikes man's finger

Rattling our cage: A rattlesnake's recently severed head still had enough reflexes left in it or other biological properties to be able to bite the finger of a rancher who had just used a shovel to snap off the head. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Rattling our cage: A rattlesnake's recently severed head still had enough reflexes left in it or other biological properties to be able to bite the finger of a rancher who had just used a shovel to snap off the head. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Just like Indiana Jones, I’m not too keen on snakes, especially the venomous ones. Now we snake-a-phobes have one more thing to worry about: dead snakes.

Last week a rural Washington state man was bitten by the decapitated head of a rattlesnake. After finding the five-foot snake in the grass while feeding his horses, the man immobilized the snake with a pipe and whacked off its head with a shovel. End of story, right?

Oh no. When he reached down to pick up the snake, the severed head twisted around and bit the guy’s finger. It took about 10 minutes for him to get to the nearby hospital where anti-venom shots were given to him just as his tongue was starting to swell.

I can hear you scoffing: “Urban legend.” But a wildlife biologist in Washington said that it’s possible that the snake’s heat-seeking abilities may still have been intact, or that the snake’s reflexes were still working despite the severing.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

not buyin' it

posted on Mon, 08/13/2007 - 10:28pm
Rob's picture
Rob says:

I'm not sure about the 'twisting around' bit, but I could imagine a reflexive response to the snake's head being handled resulting in it doing what snakes do. But I think that any residual reflex action would fade quickly, so the farmer must have grabbed at the head pretty much immediately after severing it - and let's face it, that's a dumb thing to do regardless.

I remember driving a shovel through a snake years ago. It must have been close to cut in half (the shovel ended up standing up in the dirt). About half an hour later, I grabbed the shovel handle, which distubed the snake and it started writhing about. I expected it to be well and truly dead!

Scared the crap out of me.

posted on Tue, 08/14/2007 - 1:51am
Hankmat's picture
Hankmat says:

Serves him right. Snakes have a place in the natural flow of things. He should have captured and released the snake, or call one of the animal control venues that respond to these kinds of situations. More snakes, less disease carrying rodents.

posted on Tue, 08/14/2007 - 7:17am
tjanejane's picture
tjanejane says:

That's very scary.

posted on Tue, 08/14/2007 - 9:02am
Herpetologist from WI's picture
Herpetologist from WI says:

Totally possible. If you ever see a rattlesnake, or any snake for that manner, leave it alone. If it is in your house, or like Indiana Jones in your plane, then call a professional to take care of it. Remember they take care of rodents which can spread diseases.

posted on Tue, 08/14/2007 - 11:33am
nick zarn's picture
nick zarn says:

why would he chop of its head if it wasn't attacking him

posted on Tue, 08/14/2007 - 12:20pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

rattlers are deadly not only to humans but animals. While they do eat rodents they also are a threat to other animals and given this guy was feeding his horses he likely has other animals as well. If we let them all live soon they would take over an area. There needs to be a balance. just like killing anything. it's all a matter of balance.

PS. they don't make anti venum for animals anymore so he was thinking of his animals and probably his money, but he should have been smarter about picking it up.

posted on Mon, 04/04/2011 - 7:16am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I totally believe it.... happen at a camp that i went to once.

posted on Tue, 11/04/2008 - 9:17pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Well for all you skeptics, check this video out:

posted on Fri, 03/27/2009 - 3:38pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I feel..its jst not rite to chop off a living thing so mercilessly unless that is the only way out.some human organs also function for some time after one's death,same must the case with the snake.if not mercy atleast have respect and compassion for a dying animal! :( sad that people still prefer to kill an animal instead summoning a responsible authority.even they have a singly life to live....and a very hard one,so dont it away from them!

posted on Mon, 06/20/2011 - 2:09am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

a good snake is a dead snake...

posted on Fri, 03/30/2012 - 11:14pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

wow i would be soooooo scared!!!!! ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted on Sat, 04/07/2012 - 3:42pm
strollerdad's picture
strollerdad says:

Completely possible. I ran across this page because tonight I found a Mojave Rattler ten feet from where my kids play in their sandbox. When I returned with a shot gun he was coming out of my chicken coup. He needed to go, I shot him in half and an hour later when I attempted to put the head end in a can to dispose of he was very reactive he even managed to flip over and try to strike upon further prodding. I guess this means he is actually dead and I should be able to move him in the morning but it was so incredibly scary.

posted on Sun, 07/08/2012 - 1:19am

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