Man Says Snake Survived in Sealed Jar for a Year, Bit Him When He Opened It

A man has claimed that a venomous snake sealed in a jar for a year survived and bit him when he opened it, causing him to be rushed to hospital.

The man from Heilongjiang, mainland China, bought three venomous snakes submerged in a jar of medicinal wine in order to treat his son's chronic illness, The China Times reported. The man had tried many other treatments to no avail, the newspaper said.

Snake wine is a traditional Chinese liquor prepared by putting a venomous snake, usually while it is still alive, inside a jar of rice wine. It is then left to marinate over several months.

While it is widely believed that the wine holds beneficial properties as an anti-inflammatory and painkiller, scientists have discounted the theory and put the practice down as cruel, inhumane and useless.

Snake wine
A photo shows snake wine being sold in China. Some believe snakes can survive in while submerged. PETER PARKS //Getty Images

According to National Geographic, drinking snake wine can be dangerous due to the possibility that the snake may have survived. It said that sometimes, the snakes can pass on deadly parasites to the person drinking the wine.

The China Times reported that after the man was bitten by the live snake, he was treated in a timely manner and survived. It said similar cases have been reported in the past, claiming that sometimes, snakes can enter a dormant state that can last several years. Also, the newspaper said if the jar is not sealed properly, snakes have survived with enough air entering to sustain them.

However Wolfgang Wüster, a reader in zoology and herpetology at Bangor University in Wales, told Newsweek that this is all "biologically impossible."

"No snake can survive submerged in any kind of liquid in a bottle for more than an hour or so as a maximum. Snakes have no magical powers, they are made of flesh and bone like any other animal, and require food, water and oxygen to survive," he said.

Wüster also said snakes do not have medical properties. He said this traditional medicine is "actually useless" and noted the impacts it has on other endangered species such as pangolins.

"Many species are endangered due to reckless overharvesting for so-called traditional medicines," he said.

Some snakes become inactive at certain temperatures but there has to be enough oxygen available. The state is known as brumation, which is the cold-blooded creature equivalent of hibernation. During brumation, a snake's metabolism slows down to conserve energy, and they become less active. This usually happens during the winter when food is not as available.

For this reason, there is speculation that if there is enough oxygen in a jar of rice wine and it is kept at a certain temperature, the snake may enter this state. However, for a snake to survive for up to a year in such conditions is unlikely.