Two headed snake Tiger-Lily to depart Powder Valley Nature Center March 18 for Kansas City

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KIRKWOOD, Mo. – Tiger-Lily, a unique two-headed western rat snake, (Pantherophis obsoletus), will leave the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Powder Valley Nature Center Monday, March 18.  The snake will be bound for MDC’s Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center in Kansas City as it continues a statewide tour of MDC sites while its home at Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center near Branson is closed for construction. 

Tiger-Lily has been on loan at the nature center in Kirkwood since January 23.  “Almost 10,000 visitors have been able to come to Powder Valley to meet Tiger-Lily since her January 23 arrival,” said MDC said Interim Nature Center Manager, Robyn Parker. 

The two-headed snake was discovered in Stone County in 2017 and named “Tiger-Lily” by the family who found the rare reptile.  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.  Western rat snakes are non-venomous and a common native species in Missouri. 

Having two heads presents a special challenge when eating, since both heads want to eat, but there is only have one esophagus between them.  To address the issue, naturalists put a small cup over one head while feeding the other.

“We’ve been showing the feeding times on a television screen, so the public has had the ability to witness this interesting phenomenon,” Parker said.

Eating is just one of many 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.

Tiger-Lily will remain on display at Powder Valley through Saturday, March 16.  The snake’s next feeding before its departure will be at 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 14.

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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