BRANSON, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center is having a unique event for a unique reptile.
From 10 a.m.-noon on Oct. 5, MDC will hold a birthday party for the two-headed western ratsnake that is on display in the facility’s auditorium. The snake, a female which was found in Stone County in the fall of 2017, is two years old and doing fine according to MDC Interpretive Center Manager Alison Bleich.
“She has shed on a regular basis this year, which means it has grown a lot,” Bleich said. “The body has grown about two inches this summer, alone. Overall it is about two feet in length.”
Birthday festivities for “Tiger” and “Lily” – the names given to the two-headed snake by the family that found it – will include crafts, cupcakes (while they last) and an opportunity at noon to observe the feeding of some of the other snakes housed at the Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center.
Bleich said feeding a snake that has two heads and only one body is a challenge.
“We have to keep the heads separate when they are eating,” she said. “Since they share the same throat, it wouldn’t be good for them to both eat a mouse at once or to try to swallow the same mouse.”
Eating is just one of a multitude of problems facing a polycephalous (two-headed) animal. In addition to eating problems, a two-headed snake would also be extremely vulnerable to predation because it wouldn’t have the ability to escape into the normal holes and crevices that one-headed snakes can fit into.
In a captive situation, however, a two-headed snake’s chances of surviving are improved. A two-headed western ratsnake that was found in 2005 is currently on display at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center in in southeast Missouri.
No registration is required for the Oct 5. birthday event. To find out more about this event or other events at the Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center, call 417-334-4865, ext. 0. The Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center is part of MDC’s Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery and is located at 483 Hatchery Road on the west end of Lake Taneycomo near Branson.