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He Shot a Rattlesnake's Head Off. An Hour Later, a Surprise

Billy Forbus says dead snake went after him
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2018 2:05 PM CDT

(Newser) – A rattlesnake had its head shot off only to go after its executioner an hour later, as seen in a wild video making the rounds on social media. Billy Forbus of Montgomery, Ala., tells WSFA he shot the snake, separating its head from the body, after finding it in his garden, then put the body in his truck bed. But when he returned an hour later with a grabber tool, hoping to show the reptile to his dad and brother, he found the snake was acting far from dead. The video shows it slithering away before suddenly striking out, knocking the tool out of Forbus' hand. "We pretty much decided to just to leave him alone after that," Forbus says. "That thing had no head, and anywhere I walked around this truck and touched him, he knew where I was coming from."

Forbus should perhaps consider himself lucky. Last month, a Texas man needed 26 doses of antivenom, and still nearly died, after he was bit by the head of a rattlesnake he'd decapitated with a shovel, per Global News. This sort of thing actually happens pretty often as snakes retain their bite reflexes hours after death, per National Geographic. "It comes down to them being cold-blooded," a wildlife expert tells WSFA. "They don't really need that much oxygen to begin with so that energy can stay … longer in them than it would us." That applies to a snake's venom glands, as well as the rest of its body, even when decapitated. "The other half continues to work. It'll rise and rattle" a researcher tells Gizmodo, explaining Forbus' experience. (This snake "hit the jackpot" with its venom.)

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