It’s not just one-in-a-million odds. It’s one-in-a-hundred-million odds that this two-headed snake managed to survive seventeen years and counting.
Back in 2005, a young boy came across a two-headed black rat snake that was slithering around his yard in Delta, Missouri. The family brought the rare serpent to the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center. Here, experts have been caring for the creature ever since.
According to snake expert Steve Allain, a council member of the British Herpetological Society, the odds of a two-headed snake, alone, are one-in-a-hundred-thousand. Given the snake’s old age, those odds jump to one-in-a-hundred-million.
“I know of another two-headed snake that survived until it was 20, so it’s [sic] isn’t impossible for them to survive that long,” Allain said, per Daily Mail. “However, it is extremely unlikely.”
Two-Headed Snake’s Chances of Survival Are Significantly Less Than Typical Snake
The old adage says two heads are better than one, but in the wild, this isn’t the case. The Missouri black rat snake would have a harder time catching and swallowing its usual prey.
“A normal snake their size would be capable of eating full-sized mice with ease,” said Alex Holmes, a naturalist at the conservation center. “But their conjoined spine makes it more difficult to swallow all but very small, young mice, which they take thawed from frozen.”
Just because the heads share a body doesn’t mean they work together, either. In fact, Holmes reported that the heads are “quite competitive” when they eat. So, the staff has to feed each one separately by placing a drinking cup over the other.
Then the team has to give each head proper time to digest before switching.
“We wait a period of time to make sure the food has passed their junction to avoid a ‘traffic jam’ from the left and right head’s meals meeting in the esophagus,” Holmes shared.
The Two Heads Even Have a Tough Time Agreeing on Which Direction to Go
“Our ‘twins’ have a hard time deciding which way to go, arguing as sisters do – which is fine for a life of leisurely captivity,” Holmes continued. “But if a hungry hawk, skunk, or raccoon came along in the wild that slow reaction to danger would make them an easy meal.’ Even in captivity, however, survival is rare.”
Needless to say, the two-headed snake likely wouldn’t have survived without the help of the conservation center. Not to mention, if one of the snake’s heads suffers any ailment, it will affect the other. Much of their survival depends on what organs the snakes share, how compatible they are with each other and how they react to their care.
“To last 17 years is a real achievement,” said Paul Rowley, a herpetologist at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.