This week, the nightmare-inducing creature showed up in a yard in Woodbridge, Virginia. A photo was sent and posted to the Facebook page of a wildlife expert, and it quickly became a social media sensation.
The tale of the two-headed snake discovery started when a woman was coming out of her house in Woodbridge when she spotted the snake in her flower bed.
Rich Perry, who runs a wildlife removal company – Virginia Wildlife Management and Control in Powhatan – said he was one of those who helped identify the snake.
“She was afraid it would get away and having kids and pets, they were going to get bit,” Perry said. She scooped it up in a plastic bin, according to Perry, took a picture and posted it to her neighborhood email group, asking if anyone could identify it.
Someone on that group saw the picture and sent it to Perry, who runs a 24-hour hotline that helps identify snakes. When he saw it, Perry said, he knew it was a ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs copperhead.
“It was absolutely incredible,” Perry said. He said he has dealt with “hundreds of snakes every year” during his 40 years in the wildlife removal business but has never seen anything like this. “It was a fluke thing. Just a freak of nature”
The homeowner did not wish to be identified, according to Perry. The family named the snake “Dos” — Spanish for “two.”
Perry said that at least six people, including the owner of a private museum, had reached out to him, offering to pay for the snake because it is so rare. It was a unique find in the herpetology world because two-headed snakes rarely occur in the wild. Those that are alive have often been bred in captivity.
State herpetologist J.D. Kleopfer said on Facebook that finding a two-headed snake in the wild is an “exceptionally rare” find.
“This is an extraordinary animal,” said Kleopfer. He’s been stuᴅʏɪɴɢ snakes for more than three decades and, like many local snake experts, said he had not seen anything like it in his career.
“This is a Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus kind of moment,” he said.
This condition — known as ʙɪᴄᴇᴘʜᴀʟʏ — is an uncommon abnormality that occurs during ᴇᴍʙʀʏᴏnic development, when identical twins fail to fully separate, Live Science previously reported. The condition appears in all sorts of animals, including deer and porpoises; humans seem to encounter living bicephalic snakes about once a year. In 2019, a bicephalic baby rattlesnake named “Double-Dave” turned up in New Jersey, while a two-headed viper slithered onto a family’s property in Virginia in 2018. Dos just helped 2020 meet its quota.
Bicephalic animals tend to have a rough go of it in the wild, where their competing brains make it harder to do things like catch prey or flee predators. As such, they often end up in the custody of wildlife experts. For now, Dos is being cared for by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which recently took some spiffy head shots (heads shots?) of the snake for Facebook. FWC experts identified Dos as a juvenile southern black racer (Coluber constrictor Priapus), a small, nonᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs snake common in the southeastern United States.
Dos certainly has a better shot of survival under the care of FWC herpetologists than in the wild (for starters, no need to worry about curious cats anymore), but life will be far from easy. In nature, two heads aren’t always better than one. Just ask this worm that grew a second face on its ʙᴜᴛᴛ.