A man was working in his yard in Texas, when he spotted a four-foot rattlesnake. He beheaded the snake with a shovel. However, the head, which was cut-off from the body head, bit him. The mans fell-ill and had to airlifted to a hospital where he needed a large doses of antivenom.
According to media reports, the man received a massive dose of the snake’s venom. A week later he remains in stable condition. The snake was reported to be a Western diamondback rattlesnake.
The question is how did the snake bite after dying. It happened because snakes retain their reflexes hours after death, like many other reptiles The bite reflex is extremely strong in venomous snakes, because their instinct is to deliver one extremely quick bite, move away, and wait for their venom to work.
The bodies of snakes often writhe around for some time after they are dead, says Bruce Jayne, a biology professor at the University of Cincinnati told theNational Geographic. It’s a similar reflex to that of a headless chicken being able to run around for a short time, Jayne says. The mechanism behind this eerie behavior is a nervous system pre-programmed to make certain movements without the brain needing to send a signal. And a decapitated venomous snake head is evidently pre-programmed to bite in response to a stimulus—such as a someone trying to pick it up, he said.
He treats dead venomous snakes, be they road kill or pickled in a jar, with the same caution as live ones. “You can easily snag your finger on a fang of a long-dead snake and be envenomated,” he said.
Its best to simply leave a venomous snake alone, Jayne says. If you need to move one from your property or a public area, call an expert to humanely move them, he advises. In short, snakes play valuable roles in the ecosystem and deserve respect as wildlife.
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