Man Left Shaken After Noticing One Strange Detail About The Snake He Was Photographing

From camouflaging leaf bugs to the bony monstrosity that is the anglerfish, nature is full of oddities and strange little miracles. Not all of Mother Nature’s gifts seem to make sense, but they have a place on this Earth, even the ones that slither throughout the forests of New Jersey.

When Dave Schneider and his colleague Dave Burkett were exploring a heavily wooded area, they stumbled across a peculiar little snake slinking between the trees. When the two Daves took a closer look at the baby serpent, they nearly jumped out of their own skin. This was no ordinary reptile.

Pine Barrens, New Jersey, is known to house bundles of breeds of snakes and turtles and lizards, oh my! More specifically, it’s home to timber rattlesnakes. Herpetologists Dave Schneider and Dave Burkett went to explore the area, but they had no idea what they were in for.

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Schneider, Herpetological Associates’ Northern New Jersey regional manager, and his fellow scientist Burkett were in the midst of auditing Pine Barrens in 2019. While walking through the thick wooded area, they came across a timber rattlesnake nest.

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“It’s an area where female snakes hang out, get sun and let the embryos incubate. They have live young in late August, [and] the young usually stay by the mother,” Burkett explained to The Sandpaper.

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They were specifically told that a female timber rattlesnake recently gave birth in Pine Barrens, so it wasn’t a shock when they found the hatchlings. There were baby rattlesnakes slithering around the proximity of the nest, and the two reptile experts were basking in it.

An enthusiastic Schneider began snapping photos of some of the babies, when Burkett noticed something odd about one of them. One of the rattlesnake offspring possessed an abnormality unlike anything either of them had ever seen.

Kristian Bell

“I was totally blown away. You hear about things like that…but it’s extremely rare. It was pretty crazy.” Dave Schneider told NBC News. It seemed that the viper donned an extra appendage, which didn’t make sense considering snakes have almost no extremities…

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Unbelievably, the infant serpent donned two heads on one body, likely because it was originally twin snakes developing in the same embryo. “I just called to Dave Schneider and said, ‘Holy cow. This thing has two heads,’” Burkett eloquently put.

David Schneider / Herpetological Associates, Inc.

They decided to name the strange creature “Double Dave,” after the two Daves who discovered it — and because of its own two heads. But Double Dave. begged the questions, are two heads really better than one?

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Schneider figured the venomous, slow-moving infant snake wouldn’t survive long in the wild, as it might’ve had difficulty escaping from predators due to its physical mutation. There was more to it, too.

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Bicephalic animals have even been known to fight themselves for food. But to fully protect the unique specimen, the Herpetological Associates had to get permission from the state to remove it from its natural habitat.

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“Under the endangered species laws, it’s illegal to handle or harass any endangered reptiles or amphibians without that [permit],” Burkett said. Still they couldn’t leave the beaut behind — this was a rare opportunity.

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According to Robert T. Zappalorti, the executive director of Herpetological Associates, Double Dave is the first two-headed snake ever found in New Jersey. Animals born with two heads only occur every one in 100,000 births in the wild, so Double Dave is pretty special.

Herpetological Associates, Inc.

The snake was 10 inches long at the time and has two pairs of working eyes (hey there, four eyes!) as well as two forked tongues. “Both tongues are flicking independently of each other, so [the snake’s] got two brains,” Schneider said.

Bob Zappalorti / Herpetological Associates

But because it has two brains, the oddball snake sometimes has trouble getting around. Often one head will want to go one direction, and the other head will want to travel in another direction. Talk about an inner conflict.

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“And [the heads are] kind of fighting each other and stiffen up, and then one will decide to go with the better half. So, it’s pretty interesting,” Schneider continued.

Herpetological Associates

“It appears the head on the right side is the more dominant one… But every once in a while, the other head will want to go in a different direction,” Schneider continued. You know how siblings are (just kidding). The experts worried the reptile wasn’t in great health.

Bob Zappalorti / Herpetological Associates

But other than its body stiffening up every once in a while, Schneider eventually concluded that the little guy seemed to be all right. While timber rattlesnakes can usually live 20 to 30 years, all the scientists can do now is hope that Double Dave lives a long, healthy life.

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According to NBC News, Herpetological Associates will soon give Double Dave an X-ray to ensure that its organs are working correctly.

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Though many cultures consider two-headed beasts to be “portents of disaster,” we think Double Dave is a marvel of nature and anything but a disaster. Dave Scheider and Dave Burkett are surely taking wonderful care of him.

Serpents are no strangers to mind-boggling abnormalities and medical anomalies, as polycephaly is just one shocking condition the mysterious species experiences. One particular snake in Massachusetts had scientists scratching their heads.

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Among the many animals that call the New England Aquarium home, harbor seals, great birds, and penguins are some of the attraction’s biggest draws. Yet even with such an enormous variety of creatures to observe, visitors can’t seem to take their eyes off of the anacondas.

New England Aquarium

Scattered throughout the aquarium’s Amazon Rainforest exhibit, these massive snakes draw tens of thousands of guests to their tanks for a glimpse at one of nature’s deadliest serpents. But in early 2019, the aquarium staff were drawn to the habitat for an entirely different reason.

While setting up for an after-hours event, one of the staffers noticed a commotion coming from the female anaconda enclosure. As they approached, they saw one of the snakes – a 10-foot-long, 30-pound, eight-year-old named Ann – was acting strange.

As the other staff members joined to investigate, the group quickly realized what was happening: she was giving birth! Staffers were understandably thrilled at the discovery, but there was just one problem — Ann had never come in contact with a mate before.

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Bred by a certified reptile organization, Ann’s caretakers had taken great care to prevent her from interacting with males before her arrival at the New England Aquarium. Stranger, the aquarium kept the males and females in separate tanks.

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Yet somehow, Ann had miraculously given birth to a litter of tiny anacondas. Most of the snakes turned out to be stillborn, but after searching through the afterbirth, the staffers discovered three of the babies had survived.

Even with their years of experience, the aquarium staff was positively baffled by the birth. Had one of the males snuck into the enclosure for a late-night rendezvous? Was there a misidentified snake living somewhere in the habitat? Was it divine intervention?

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To answer these burning questions, the staffers sent tissue samples from the babies for genetic analysis. Weeks passed, and when the results finally arrived at the aquarium, the staff couldn’t believe it.

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All of the snakes were Ann. Well, genetically anyway. The analysis showed the three babies were exact clones of their mother, meaning no male had contributed its DNA to their embryos.

The Boston Globe

While this may seem like something out of a sci-fi novel, this phenomenon actually has a pretty straightforward explanation; A female snake replaces sperm with her own polar bodies, thus swapping out male DNA for her own.

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Without the addition of the male DNA, the end result is offspring that are genetically identical to the mother. So its only fitting that this reproductive process known as parthenogenesis comes from the Greek for “Virgin Birth”.

Most often, a female will undergo parthenogenesis in the wild as a last-ditch effort after failing to come in contact with a mate for an extended period of time. Ann – who had not interacted with a male in her eight years of life – likely viewed this as her only chance to procreate.

However, this is an inherently risky process, as creating clones of oneself leads to limited genetic variation. This is especially problematic for animals in the wild, where a certain degree of genetic variability is essential for populations to survive.

“Genetically, it’s a vulnerable process,” said aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse. “It’s among that tagline, life will find a way. It’s a completely unique and amazing reproductive strategy, but it has a low viability compared to sexual reproduction.”

While only two of the three baby snakes survived infancy, it’s highly likely that these little guys will live well into adulthood. For now, the aquarium staff has chosen to keep them out of the public eye as they continue to adjust to their new home.

Sooner or later, however, eager guests will be flocking back to the Amazon Rainforest exhibit, as this phenomenon has only occurred among captive green anacondas once before. Fortunately, it seems like these little guys will welcome the attention.

Their initial interactions with the aquarium staff have definitely been positive ones. While you’d think a creature as intimidating as an anaconda wouldn’t be a fan of being touched, these babies are basically just slithery little puppies.

The Boston Globe

“The more they’re habituated to handling, the better we’re able to handle them, especially when they’re adults,” explained LaCasse. “They’re currently very popular with our staff because they’re really taking to being handled.”

But while these little guys are sure to bring joy to those who visit them, there are plenty of snakes out there that are more pest than pet. In fact, further down the East Coast, one community found itself facing an infestation of one of the deadliest serpents in the world: the Burmese Python.

And if you didn’t already know, you do not want to mess with one. The biggest of these beasts can reach a length of 23 feet and weigh over 160 pounds. They will eat anything from mice to adult deer. And as of a couple of decades ago, nobody in Florida even knew about them.

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As their name suggests, the reptiles are native to Asia’s tropics, but they were now running wild all over the Everglades. Scientists theorize that following the destruction of Hurricane Andrew, pythons escaped from a zoo and bred like wildfire.

Frank Mazzotti didn’t know quite where the snakes came from, but he was determined to stop them from spreading into densely populated areas, like Miami. The biologist swore to throw everything and the kitchen sink at them. But would that be enough?

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Everglades locals tried all kinds of tricks to root out the serpents. They put snake-sniffing dogs out in the marshes and even set loose radio-equipped “Judas snakes” to hopefully reveal their home base. The pythons only continued to grow.

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Word got around that the reptiles took over an abandoned Nike missile site. While that in and of itself didn’t threaten anyone, Floridians feared that if left unchecked, the pythons would breed at an incredible rate.

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Who knew — it could’ve only been a matter of time until the snakes expanded beyond the missile base and started showing up in places that were more…personal. The stakes were dire, but Frank learned of one group that could help.

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Deep in the forests of southern India, the Irula people have mastered snake catching. They see it as an art and take the practice incredibly seriously, even after India has slapped strict regulations on snake trading.

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In recent years, the Irulas have captured poisonous reptiles for the purpose of producing antivenoms. Clearly, there was nobody on Earth more qualified. But how could Floridians convince this tribe to help a community on the other side of the world?

Frank and his herpetologist pals managed to make contact with the Irulas, and to their surprise, the snake-catchers showed interest in helping them. Granted, the Floridians would have to shell out thousands of dollars and agree to some unusual methods.

Miami Herald

Hard as it was to believe, the Irulas didn’t use any state-of-the-art tools for finding and capturing snakes. Instead, their weapon of choice was something found in any garage: a tire iron.

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Contrary to what you might think, they didn’t intend these tire irons for a Simpsons-style Whacking Day. The Irula used them to clear a path through the brush and pick up snakes, but ultimately they tried to capture the reptiles alive when possible.

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So, Frank welcomed the best Irula hunters, Masi Sadaiyan and Vadivel Gopal, to the Everglades. While both men were in their 50s, they were at the top of their game. But the Floridians got nervous when the Irulas said they’d never before hunted snakes so large.

However, Masi and Vadivel smiled when they shared this fact. They were eager for the challenge, the chance to put their skills to the ultimate test. Granted, their brand of animal control was not without its risks.

From the start, the Irula’s tactics puzzled Frank and his friends. They insisted on marching blindly through the thickest part of the swamp. When a snake’s trail ended, Masi and Vadivel made everyone sit down, pray, and smoke a cigarette.

Frank’s hopes began to wane until one of the Irula’s pointed to a shimmer in the mud. Brandishing their trusty tire irons, Masi and Vadivel scooped up a fully-grown python! That was only the beginning.

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With a few more captures under their belts, the Irulas fearlessly plunged into an old missile shaft where herpetologists spotted a nest. The sharp-eyed hunters grasped a muscled python tail and spent hours wrestling it out of tree roots.

Miami Herald

In that one afternoon, the hunters pulled out four monstrous pythons from the overgrown missile shaft. They soon brought their total up to 14 over their first two weeks. While the Irulas couldn’t stay in the Everglades forever, they did the next best thing.

Masi and Vadivel shared their wisdom with the local wildlife management team, which never could’ve located these pythons with conventional techniques. The Irula knowledge could stem the invasion, so the Floridians wanted to give them something in return.

Besides paying the Irulas over $4,000 per python, the Floridians wanted to give them the real American experience. In between expeditions, they watched NFL games and ate hot dogs at Arbetter’s, their favorite greasy spoon.

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After a month, the Irulas returned to India feeling invigorated by the hunt of their lives. The Floridians knew they were quite fortunate to find experts to turn back the snake invasion, but of course, it wasn’t always possible to have heroes on hand.

Sometimes, everyday people have to use their wits to survive a deadly animal encounter. In the spring of 2017, a mother of four named Bianca Dickinson drove her youngest child, Molly, to the end of the long driveway cutting through her ranch in Victoria, Australia.

Bianca Dickinson / Facebook

To pass the time while waiting for the school bus to drop off her older kids, Bianca had two-year-old Molly pose for a few photographs. For 15 minutes, the duo played and snapped silly pictures—until the fun came to an abrupt halt.

Bianca Dickinson / Daily Mail

With the school bus in view down the road, Molly posed for one last photo beside a wire fence. She wore a huge grin and pointed behind herself, towards the grass blowing in the wind. It was the perfect photo… or was it?

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“I was looking through my camera lens and was looking at my daughter,” Bianca told ABC Australia. “I saw something move in the corner of my eye and actually thought it was bark coming off the tree.” But it wasn’t bark.

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What Bianca first assumed to be tree bark was actually an eastern brown snake, aka the second-most venomous snake in the entire world. And it was slithering right behind her little girl!

Bianca Dickinson / Facebook

Venom from the eastern brown snake can paralyze victims and make their blood so thin that it seeps through their pores. Without immediate treatment, a single bite from this critter can send you to an early grave—and it has enough venom to kill 20 adults.

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So it was no surprise Bianca’s insides twisted into a cold heap when she saw one of these snakes just inches away from her baby girl. “I think [the snake] was touching her boots,” Bianca said. “It was that close.” But what could she do?

Bianca Dickinson / Facebook

“All my instincts wanted to run and pick her up and scream and run away,” Bianca said. However, that move, she knew, could’ve had deadly repercussions. If she did that, there was a chance the snake would feel threatened—and strike.

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Complicating the situation, Bianca had to convey to her daughter that there was a big, deadly snake behind her and not to make any sudden movements or take any violent steps backward…

Bianca Dickinson / Facebook

So what did the mother do? She just froze. In doing so, she communicated non-verbally to Molly that she should do the same. “Luckily,” Bianca said, “she copied me.” And the snake?

Bianca Dickinson / Daily Mail

Much to Bianca’s relief, the eastern brown snake slithered away, leaving Molly unharmed. As it disappeared into the tall grass, the school bus dropped off her three older children. But Bianca’s panic hadn’t subsided yet…

Bianca Dickinson / Daily Mail

“I just started yelling at my other three kids to get in the car,” she said. “I got in the car and I was shaking.” And who could blame her? Her kids immediately noticed she wasn’t quite right.

Bianca Dickinson / Facebook

While on the drive back up the driveway, her 13-year-old daughter, Imogen (far left), asked, “What happened? Did you see a snake, mum?” Bianca nodded. “Yes,” she told the kids, and “it was at least two meters.” Her kids didn’t buy it.

Bianca Dickinson / Facebook

“Oh mum, it wasn’t that big!” Imogen said. But naturally, mother knew best. Back at home, she pulled out her camera and showed her kids the venomous reptile that’d come within inches of their little sister. And it shook them all.

Bianca Dickinson / Facebook

After seeing just how close Molly had come to the wrong end of a snake, Bianca’s older three kids didn’t want to go outside anymore. Worse, in showing the kids the photos, Bianca uncovered another nasty shock…

Bianca Dickinson / Daily Mail

She’d been taking pictures of Molly for a while before the school bus showed up, and when she reviewed those photos, she learned just how long the snake had been in striking distance. The eastern brown snake posed beside Molly in three photos!

Bianca Dickinson / Daily Mail

In the aftermath, Bianca couldn’t look at those now-infamous photos and didn’t sleep well for weeks. “Every time I shut my eyes I see that big snake and what could have happened,” she said. “I see Molly being taken away in an ambulance.”

But how did the two-year-old react to her brush with death? Well, when Bianca showed her daughter the photo, the toddler considered it for a moment. And then she said the funniest thing…

Bianca Dickinson / Daily Mail

“That’s me!” Molly said gleefully, pointing at herself, blissfully unaware of the snake in the photo. Bianca couldn’t help but laugh. At least one of her kids wouldn’t end up scarred by the moment!

Bianca Dickinson / Daily Mail

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