Two headed snake Tiger-Lily’s departure from Powder Valley Nature Center delayed due to health issue

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Saint Louis
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KIRKWOOD, Mo. – Tiger-Lily, a unique two-headed western rat snake, (Pantherophis obsoletus), was scheduled to leave the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Powder Valley Nature Center March 18.  However, the departure has been delayed because of the discovery of an emerging health condition. 

According to MDC Naturalist Lauren Baker, Tiger-Lily sneezed up traces of blood during a feeding last week.  “This immediately raised a red flag with our staff, and we quickly got her an appointment with the Animal Health Team at the Saint Louis Zoo,” said Baker.

Upon evaluation, Saint Louis Zoo veterinarians discovered that the female snake’s ovaries were in pre-ovulatory stasis.

“Under normal circumstances the ovary would grow follicles, then ovulate them as eggs to eventually be laid. In Tiger-Lily’s case she began the reproductive cycle, but the follicles did not ovulate and instead continued to grow and remain static in her ovary.  Over time this led to inflammation and the risk of infection,” said Dr. Michael Warshaw, Staff Veterinarian at the Saint Louis Zoo.

The veterinary team determined the best treatment was to remove Tiger-Lily’s abnormal ovaries.  The snake underwent surgery at the Saint Louis Zoo Endangered Species Research Center and Veterinary Hospital on March 11.  The procedure was successful, and the ovaries were removed.  She is doing well and currently recovering.  To aid in her recouperation, Tiger-Lily will not be on display during her recovery period, which Saint Louis Zoo veterinarians estimate may be a month.

After recovery, Tiger-Lily will travel to MDC’s Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center in Kansas City, continuing a statewide tour of MDC sites while her home at Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center near Branson is closed for construction. 

“We appreciate the Saint Louis Zoo’s quick response and expert treatment.  I am so happy that our two-headed gal is getting the care she needs, and we’re all wishing her a safe and speedy recovery,” said Baker.

“The Saint Louis Zoo and MDC have a long history of partnering together for the care of Missouri’s native wildlife and we are happy to have played a part in caring for this exceptional animal,” reports Dr. Chris Hanley, Director of Animal Health at the Saint Louis Zoo.

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.