A rare, two-headed snake that captured the attention of both biologists and the internet has died.
The Washington Post reports herpetologist J.D. Kleopfer shared the sad news in a Facebook post last week. Kleopfer, a reptiles and amphibians specialist at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, wrote that the snake was found dead one morning, for no apparent reason.
Kleopfer said snake keepers who specialize in two-headed snakes explained that sharing a body adds stress on the serpent, especially the spine “when the heads want to move in different directions,” according to the Post.
The saga of the two-headed snake started in September when Stephanie Meyers posted photos of it on Facebook, after her neighbor found the peculiar creature in her Northern Virginia yard.
X-rays of the young Eastern Copperhead viper revealed it had two tracheas and two esophagi but one heart and one set of lungs.
Experts at the Wildlife Center of Virginia found one head had a more well-developed esophagus, while the other had a more developed throat, which made feeding a challenge.
In an interview after the snake was discovered, Kleopfer told NPR he estimated the baby snake was about 3 weeks old and 6 to 8 inches long.
Finding a two-headed snake alive in the wild is “exceptionally rare” Kleopfer said, because they just don’t live that long due to the many challenges living day to day with two heads.
“They can’t coordinate escaping from predators, and they can’t coordinate capturing food.” Kleopfer told NPR’s Scott Simon on Weekend Edition Saturday. “So they tend to not live.”
Kleopfer noted that two-headed snakes are most often found in captivity, “but that’s usually the result of inbreeding.”
NPR’s Emma Bowman reports a one-headed copperhead snake sighting is not uncommon in North America, especially if you live in the Southeastern United States or in forested, temperate climates.
Eastern Copperheads are terrestrial snakes that inhabit a wide variety of habitats. They are venomous, but the least venomous of the three venomous snakes that live in Virginia, according to the Virginia Herpetological Society website.
The Washington Post reports that both heads on this snake appeared to have venom.
When asked if the snake would have one name or two, Kleopfer told NPR he didn’t want to name it for fear he’d jinx the snake’s survival. At the time, Kleopfer hoped to eventually donate it to a zoological facility for exhibit.
According to the Post, Kleopfer said the snake’s body will now be donated to a museum.