A Texas man who used a shovel to decapitate a rattlesnake he found in his backyard failed to realize that a severed snake head can be just as dangerous as one that has a body attached. When the man picked up the head to dispose of it, it attacked, sinking all its venom into him in a bite that was almost fatal, the BBC reports. He was airlifted from his home near Corpus Christi to a hospital where he received 26 doses of antivenom. A normal bite requires just two to four doses, his wife tells KIII-TV. The man, who encountered the four-foot snake when he was doing yard work on Memorial Day, is recovering, though he remains hospitalized in stable condition and his kidney function is still below normal.
Picking up the head was "kind of a classic mistake. People don’t realize that reptiles and mammals are wired differently,” antivenom doctor Leslie Boyer tells Gizmodo. "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’ll rise and rattle." Boyer, who says cutting up a snake is cruel as well as ineffective, says people should just step away from snakes and call experts if they want them removed. Trauma surgeon Michael Halpert says sucking the venom out of snake bite is also a bad idea. "You don't want to do any of that," he says. "You just want to keep the victim calm, keep the bitten area above the level of the heart slightly, and get the patient to the nearest emergency room." (This Arizona man no longer performs his party trick of playing with rattlesnakes.)