The best way to kill something is to cut off its head – right? Yes. But in the case of a venomous copperhead snake, just because it is dead doesn’t mean that it is no longer dangerous.
Case and point – a YouTube video posted by Huntsville, Alabama, resident Sam Billiter. Billiter recorded a dying and decapitated copperhead in his yard in 2013. At the 26 second mark of the Alabama resident’s video, the detached head of the snake strikes at its severed body, sinking its venomous fangs deep into its own tail.
Latched deep into his own slithering body, the severed head is recorded in his final attack – a grisly assault against his very own lifeless corpse.
National Geographic’s Jaclyn Skurie stated the following regarding the video:
“By the time the snake has lost its head, it’s dead and the basic body functions have ceased, but there is still some reflexive action. In other words, snakes have the capability of causing biting and injecting venom even after the head has been severed, even though it is dead.”
As summer approaches, the reality that decapitated copperheads still have the ability to strike as well as inject venom is something every resident of Appalachia should keep in mind.
Appalachian Magazine reached out to the Kieran O’Malley of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources regarding the specifics of the state’s law pertaining to the killing of snakes. According to O’Malley, it is lawful for residents to kill both poisonous and non-poisonous snakes “around their domicile and outbuildings.” In case you’re wondering, domicile is a fancy word meaning “a person’s residence or home.”
Still, many experts caution against killing venomous snakes. According to Skurie, most snakebites occur when an individual is attempting to kill the snake.
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