“Just knowing a snake head could still bite after it dies would’ve prevented him from getting bit,” Ms. Sutcliffe said. “A lot of people at the hospital had no idea. There’s not a lot of education out there about what you’re supposed to do with a snake.”
A bite from a decapitated snake can be even more deadly than a bite from a living one, said Christine Rutter, a veterinarian at Texas A&M University’s Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. If possible, a decapitated snake head will try to empty out its glands, Dr. Rutter said. It’s almost like a Hail Mary pass in football.
“All the hormones, adrenaline, is maximized,” she said, “so whenever they bite, they give it all they have.”
In some Southern states where snakes are more populous — including South Carolina, Florida and Georgia — local media outlets have tried to teach residents how to tell whether a snake is venomous and what to do if they encounter one. An expert told The Charleston Post and Courier to leave the venomous snake alone and “give it a wide berth.”
Quentin Remsburg was 19 when he got a little too close.
On Aug. 18, 2016, he was on his way home in Shade Gap, Pa., when a neighbor flagged him down. She needed help removing a timber rattlesnake from her backyard.
With a three-foot shovel, Mr. Remsburg and another neighbor managed to chop off the snake’s head. Mr. Remsburg went to scoop the head up, but he somehow managed to fling it onto his hand, where it latched onto his left index finger. About three seconds passed before he pried it off. His whole hand was swollen.
He was hospitalized for three days before returning home. Nearly a week later, his hand started throbbing and burning. His mother drove him back to the hospital, where he learned his blood platelet level had fallen to around 10,000. A normal count is at least 150,000.