Do Rattlesnakes Ever Stop Being Dangerous?

A rattlesnake's head is still able to bite and inject victims with venom for up to an hour after being decapitated.
A rattlesnake's head is still able to bite and inject victims with venom for up to an hour after being decapitated.

You know something is seriously scary when you can cut off its head and it can still kill you. No, we're not talking about a new horror film; this is real-life terror that took place in 2018 in Texas, but could happen anywhere. Jeremy Sutcliffe was working in his backyard near Lake Corpus Christi when his wife's scream brought him running. She had nearly grabbed a Western diamondback rattlesnake that was hiding in their garden.

Sutcliffe thought he had saved the day when he hacked the snake's head off with a shovel. He then made the mistake of picking up the decapitated head, and it paid him back with a bite.

Rushed to the hospital, Sutcliffe went into a coma and nearly died. After 26 doses of antivenin, he survived, no doubt learning a lesson: In a last-ditch effort to survive, a snake's head can continue to inject venom into a victim for at least an hour after being severed from its body. If that's not the stuff of scary movies, nothing is.

Some facts that might rattle you:

  • Every time it sheds its skin, a rattlesnake adds another segment to its rattle.

  • Arizona is home to the most species of rattlesnake, including the largest in the West, the aforementioned Western diamondback.

  • Despite their toxicity, rattlesnakes kill only about five or six of the 7,000 to 8,000 people they bite every year.

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    • A rattlesnake's head is still able to bite and inject victims with venom for up to an hour after being decapitated.
      A rattlesnake's head is still able to bite and inject victims with venom for up to an hour after being decapitated.