A man from Texas nearly died after being bitten by a decapitated snake head

Larry Smith/flickrDo not touch — even if decapitated.
  • A man in Texas was bitten by a severed rattlesnake head and received a potentially fatal dose of venom.
  • The man required 26 vials of antivenom to combat the poison, his wife told a local news station. He’s now in stable condition.
  • An antivenom doctor told Gizmodo that a snake’s head can continue to function hours after being cut off.

If you thought that cutting the head off a venomous snake would make it safe to handle, think again.

A man from Texas received a potentially fatal dose of venom last month when he was bitten by the head of a rattlesnake – even though he’d just decapitated it.

The man was working in the garden when he spotted the venomous snake and severed its head with a shovel, his wife, Jennifer Sutcliffe, told the local news station KIII-TV.

Sutcliffe said her husband was rushed to a hospital in an emergency helicopter after having seizures and required 26 vials of antivenom to combat the toxin.

KIII-TV reported that the man was in a weak but stable condition, with limited kidney function.

American Museum of Natural History/The Power of PoisonThe skull of an eastern diamondback rattlesnake.

Leslie Boyer, an antivenom doctor and the founding director of the University of Arizona’s Viper Institute, told Gizmodo that people should not assume that severing the head of a snake renders it harmless.

“That’s kind of a classic mistake,” Boyer said. “People don’t realise that reptiles and mammals are wired differently.”

Boyer added: “The head end of a cut-up rattlesnake can continue to function, including the venom glands, for a long time afterward and, in fact, the other half continues to work. It will rise and rattle.”

Boyer advised people who come across venomous snakes to back away and call an expert, adding that killing snakes by cutting them is not the way to handle the situation.

“It’s cruel to the animal,” Boyer said, “and it leaves you with a smaller piece that’s venomous to pick up.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.