Animal removal business Virginia Wildlife Management and Control has shared on Facebook photos of a rare creature: a two-headed snake. The copperhead was found last week at a resident’s backyard in Woodbridge, Virginia.
WTVR reported that the copperhead was examined at the veterinary hospital Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro, where imaging revealed more details about the reptile.
A spokesperson for the center said that the left head of the animal appears more dominant as it tends to be more active and responsive to stimulus. The left head also has the dominant esophagus, while the right head has a more developed throat for eating.
“Radiographs revealed that the two-headed snake has two tracheas [the left one is more developed], two esophaguses [the right one is more developed], and the two heads share one heart and one set of lungs,” the spokesperson said.
“Based on the anatomy, it would be better for the right head to eat, but it may be a challenge since the left head appears more dominant.”
J.D. Kleopfer, a reptiles and amphibians specialist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, told USA Today that the creature is now being cared for by an experienced viper keeper in the hopes that the snake will be put on display at a zoo.
Leaving this creature in the wild decreases it chances of survival. Snakes with this mutation have difficulty surviving in the wild, partly because the two heads often want to do different things.
“We hear of one every several years,” Gordon Burghardt, a herpetologist who has studied several two-headed snakes, told National Geographic.
“Just watching them feed, often fighting over which head will swallow the prey, shows that feeding takes a good deal of time, during which they would be highly vulnerable to predators.”
Copperheads often grow to between 18- and 36-inches long. They are not known for being aggressive, but they can attack humans when disturbed.
Kleopfer, who is also state herpetologist, said that this particular snake is still young. The creature is estimated to be about 2-weeks-old. It is also small, measuring just about six-inches long.
Kleopfer explained that the snake does not pose much danger at this time because at its age, it mainly attacks insects.
Two-headed snakes form much like the same way Siamese twins do. A developing embryo starts to split into identical twins, but suddenly stops to part ways, leaving the twins joined.