Rare two headed snake Tiger-Lily comes to Powder Valley Nature Center Jan. 23 for six weeks

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KIRKWOOD, Mo. – Are two heads really better than one?  Visitors to the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Powder Valley Nature Center in Kirkwood can soon find out.

Tiger-Lily, a two-headed western rat snake, (Pantherophis obsoletus), will arrive at Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23.  The snake will remain there for visitors to see until the end of February.  From there, the two-headed snake will continue her journey around Missouri, staying temporarily at other MDC sites across the state. 

Tiger-Lily is on loan from her home at the Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center near Branson, which is currently closed for construction. 

Western rat snakes are non-venomous and native to Missouri.  Tiger-Lily is actually a pair of conjoined identical snake twins that were never completely separated.  Such snakes are rarely seen in the wild, partly because snakes born this way have a low survival rate.

“Tiger-Lily” is the name given to the two-headed snake by the family who found this unique reptile in Stone County in 2017,” said MDC Interpretive Center Manager Alison Bleich. “The female snake was donated to the Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center for display purposes. “Tiger-Lily is almost five feet long and has a healthy appetite,” according to Bleich, but she said that feeding time always presents a challenge.

“Both heads want to eat, but they only have one esophagus,” Bleich said. “We put a small cup over one head while the other eats, then switch. Otherwise, both would be trying to grab the same mouse.”

Eating is just one of a multitude of struggles facing a polycephalous (two-headed) animal. If it were in the wild, 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.

However, in captivity, a two-headed snake’s chances of survival are much better. Ansother two-headed western rat snake that was found in 2005 is currently on display at MDC’s Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center in in southeast Missouri.

“Come in and meet Tiger-Lily at Powder Valley Nature Center this winter, along with our other exhibit animals such as venomous and non-venomous snakes, turtles, and fish,” said Interim Nature Center Manager, Robyn Parker. 

Powder Valley Nature Center is located at 11715 Cragwold Road in Kirkwood, near the intersection of I-270 and I-44.

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