Nebraska Snake With Two Heads Keeps Trying to Go in Opposite Directions

An extremely rare snake with two heads has been discovered in Nebraska—and each of the heads keeps trying to go in opposite directions.

Joshua Marshall had been clearing out his girlfriend's garden in Clay Center when he lifted a log near her fire pit and spotted what he thought was two garter snakes. It was only upon closer inspection that he realized it was one reptile, only a few inches long, with two heads.

Garter snake in leaves
A stock photo shows a garter snake coiled among some leaves. A two-headed specimen has been discovered in Clay Center, Nebraska. Jim Maley/Getty

Garter snakes are non-venomous and eat small rodents, fish, invertebrates and amphibians in the wild. The small- to medium-sized species is native to North and Central America.

Two-headed snakes are extremely rare. The phenomenon happens when a snake embryo begins to split, but not all the way. This causes the reptile to develop two heads that are independent of each other, but attached to the same body.

It could also be due to aggregation mating, which happens when two sperm hit an egg at the same time.

"It took me a second, but then I realized it was two heads on one snake," Marshall told the Lincoln Journal Star. He carefully picked up the rare creature and put it in a jar.

Marshall told the newspaper that his girlfriend is a Clay County dispatcher, so the couple knew how to reach the local Nebraska Game and Parks conservation officer.

"I called him, and he said, 'I don't want it, but I'm going to bet that UNL [the University of Nebraska–Lincoln] does,'" Marshall said.

In a Facebook post, he wrote the snake was collected that evening by Dennis Ferraro, a herpetologist from the UNL Department of Natural Resources who was traveling back home to Lincoln from a field trip.

"I should add it was alive and well when turned over," Marshall added.

Ferraro told the Journal Star that he had only ever seen a few of the specimens in the four decades he has studied reptiles. This snake was only 10 days old and probably would not have survived in the wild.

This reptile was rarer still, as it had a mutation causing two distinct necks, while two-headed snakes usually share one.

"Each head is acting independently," Ferraro said. "But it's not really moving very much, because one head starts to go one way, and the other head starts to go the other way, and it's a draw."

The garter snake will be used for research and education at UNL, and when it dies, it will be preserved.