A family in Hurley, Mo. got a big surprise when they went to check out a snake they found near their home several months ago. What they initially thought was a Copperhead turned out much less dangerous, but also far more interesting.
It was a black rat snake, which are very common in Missouri. What wasn't so common was that the reptile had two heads. Realizing what a unique find it was, the family scooped it up and put in a call to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
John Miller, the naturalist programs supervisor at Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery near Branson, then made the trip to Hurley to see the animal. The family wanted the snake to be put on display somewhere, and Miller was happy to oblige them.
Today, the snake is a popular attraction at the hatchery. Miller says it is fortunate the family captured it., as the two heads don't always work together, which could make it an easy target for predators.
"They haven't quite gotten their act together. They do try to go two different directions. It happens a lot of times. Early on you just see them looking like a Y, and occasionally they'll put their heads together like they're crossing their fingers and they'll decide where to go, but they're not going very fast. They'll get distracted. One wants to go one way, one wants to go the other way."
Miller says this mutation is the result of a single egg shell forming around two separate snakes when they were developing inside their mother. Confined to the same shell, they grew together.
Because the youngster hasn't yet fully matured, it isn't clear whether it is a male or female. However, the family that found the snake has names all picked out for the big gender reveal: Jeff and Jeffrey if it's a boy, or Tiger and Lily if it's a girl.
If you'd like to see the little guy (or girl) for yourself, Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.