A two-headed rattlesnake was found in New Jersey, and it looks… well, it looks kinda cute, really.
That’s ‘cause it’s just a baby. This little critter was found in the New Jersey Pine Barrens by a pair of researchers working for the Herpetological Associates of Burlington County, which is an environmental consulting company that specializes in endangered reptiles, amphibians, and other scaly creatures.
This particular double-header is a timber rattlesnake, a threatened species that the Herpetological Associates are keeping an eye on. As with all rattlesnakes, the timber rattlesnake is venomous, but bites are exceedingly rare. Only a few bites have ever been recorded, and of those, even fewer deaths. That’s because timber rattlesnakes are fairly docile creatures who prefer to shake their rattle and play dead than bite in self-defense.
However, folks in the olden days weren't willing to study rattlesnakes to know which ones were dangerous--they just killed 'em all. As such, the timber rattlesnake is an endangered species and has been wiped out in many parts of the US. It survives in the Jersey Pine Barrens due to the area's protected status.
But back to our two-headed friend. A pair of employees from the Herpetological Associates were keeping an eye on a timber rattlesnake nest last August when one of the eggs hatched with two little snouts poking through.
Two-headed snakes are exceedingly rare, but they do happen. Basically the snake version of conjoined twins, they form from twin embryos that didn't quite fully separate inside the egg. In this case, the two heads develop separately even though they share the same body.
According to Bob Zappalorti, CEO at the Herpetological Associates, each head has its own brain and functions independently from the other.
“It probably wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild,” Bob Zappalorti said in an interview with NJ.com. “As it was crawling, there’s a chance it could have gotten snagged on something, leaving it open to be eaten by predators.”
The two-headed baby will be kept by the Herpetological Associates as it would be unlikely to survive if released.